Monday, September 4, 2017

About Labor Day

Today is Labor Day here in the United States. Several other countries celebrate such a day in May. The first Labor Day in this country was held in 1882 and was created as a holiday for workers by the Central Labor Union. Originally, the day was filled with a street parade meant to appreciate the work of trade and labor organizations. The parade was followed by a festival of some type to entertain local workers and their families. It wasn't until 1894 that the U.S. Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday.

Now we can use it to remind ourselves of the social and economic achievements of Americans. But we should also be aware of how all workers are treated—and support good working conditions and wages for everyone.

A little-known piece of Labor Day history is the Pullman railway worker strike in Chicago that occurred just after Congress passed its act in 1894. Railway magnate George Pullman laid off workers and reduced wages, causing workers to strike and eventually to resort to violence, tipping over railroad cars and setting them on fire. Troops entered the scene with bayonets and bullets. Dozens of people died in Chicago and elsewhere.

This is a day for most Americans to relax and hang out with family and friends. But it's also good to think about what the day really meant through history and means today for workers.

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