September 7, 2009

What do you know about Labor Day?

Yesterday I briefly tuned in to the news to catch up a bit while I ate my dinner and was intrigued by the words of the talking head featured at that moment. He was saying that most Americans have little idea what Labor Day is about or it's beginnings. He didn't go into any details of the so-called holiday, so I decided to find out for myself, as I'm obviously one of the ones he was talking about. Labor Day wasn't really on the public school celebration list, except for a day off, and neither of my parents were in a union of any type by the time I could question the day.
The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. In the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the US military and US Marshals during the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with Labor as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. Cleveland was also concerned that aligning a US labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair. All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday.
I have to be honest, I had no idea Labor Day (despite the name) was about celebrating labor unions. Well, not the labor unions, really...I'm all for the right to organize and for fair & safe practices on the part of the companies and the workers.
The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations," followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement
Spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement?
Traditionally, Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. The holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parades.
They forgot to mention sales at the mall.

My first real job was as a courtesy clerk at a grocery store...you know, the "box boy". As a requirement of the job, I had to be a part of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union. I paid dues and when strike loomed, I was told that I was not to cross the 'strike lines'. I didn't really have any feelings one way or the other at the time, as I was only 16 years old. I do know that we got very good pay because of the contracts and negotiations of the union, that much was obvious.

My husband currently does not work for a union, but is on the other side of things as it were. Currently, we are awaiting word whether the Boiler Operators (IUOE) at Boeing are going to strike. If they do, my husband will have to work double-time and step into the position of boiler operator for the duration of the strike. The company has been training him to work in that capacity for the last two months in preparation for the strike. Again, I have mixed feelings about how things work with the union. It seems like such a chess game; the company needs to make money to stay alive, but also has the tendency to take advantage and cut corners. The union/workers want as much as they possibly can get not even considering the welfare of the very lifeline of the jobs. Did I say how much I hate politics?

So, there you have Labor Day. I hope all my readers enjoy this day 'of rest' and hope that you, unlike my husband, got to take the day off.

Oh, and one more thing; I pray that everyone who is currently unemployed and is diligently seeking work will find it, whether a job with a union or not. My heart breaks for the families that are just trying to put food on the table or to keep the roof over their head because of the lack of good employment. I sincerely hope that the economy rights itself, despite our politicians, and soon. Join me in this prayer, will you?

2 comments:

Ari C'rona said...

That's interesting - I didn't know all that, either! I like the part about the sales! lol!

As a federal worker at the shipyard, Larry has to join a union, but is not allowed to strike.

And, yes, I will join you in that prayer for jobs for those in need. :o)

Mama Cache said...

We have many friends who live waiting to hear whether or not they will keep their jobs, many who seem to be on an endless walk from one uncertain job to another, and others who have none. Thank you for the reminder and the request, my friend.