As summer winds down the hint of Autumn is in the air, The Graffiti Bridge would like to take a moment to pause, and reflect on Labor Day.
For a long time, Labor Day has been considered to be the final Hoo-Ra of summer, before the kids go back to school. But Labor Day originated in the roots of the American Labor movement. So here is the story of the birth of Labor day and its place in the history of this great Nation:
Labor Day in the Past:
Labor Day was conceived by Labor Unions as a day for America’s workers to get together, plan, and organize their future campaigns for workers rights.
The first day of September was chosen by the unions to give them enough time to finalize their strategies for the upcoming November elections. It passed unanimously through both House and Senate, and was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1892.
There was a lot of distrust between Cleveland and American Labor Unions due to his mishandling of a railroad workers strike earlier that year. The striking workers incited a riot and started smashing windows and setting buildings on fire. Cleveland sent in the National Guard and US Marshals to restore order.
Two of the striking workers were shot and killed by an overzealous Marshall, and the head of the union was arrested and jailed.
In an attempt to appease the workers and quite frankly to try to restore some of his badly shredded credibility with the American public, Cleveland hurriedly signed the legislation into law.
This legislation set one day a year aside to show appreciation to the American worker and all they do, and so, Labor Day was born.
II) Labor Day in the Present.
In modern times, most workers have forgotten the events leading up to the establishment of Labor Day.
Over a century later, Labor Day is now viewed, not as a celebration of the American worker, but as the last long weekend of the summer. Just about no one sees it as a time for union organization or political planning.
In today’s workforce, barely a fraction of workers are unionized. In fact, according to the BLS, less than 15 percent of all workers in America belong to any kind of Labor Union.
These numbers are down dramatically for fifty years ago. In those days, big factories, big labor unions, and the soldiers coming home from The War created a work environment geared toward the workers.
The G.I. bill provided returning soldiers with free training. This provided a large pool of highly skilled workers to work in American factories. This massive influx of skilled workers and the world's need for American goods gave rise the strong Middle Class. This greatly contributed to the raid rise of per capita wealth that spring boarded The United States into Superpower status.
Today, many workers are scheduled to work on Labor Day. For those who don’t, Labor Day is a day for back porch barbecuing, sunny beach trips, and spending time with the family.
III) Labor Day in Future:
The future of Labor Day is as uncertain as the future of the American worker. Decades of high powered lobbyists continually attacking government regulations has eaten away nearly all the laws put into place to protect the middle class workers is gone. As such, the middle-class has all but disappeared.
But, there is a bit of light at the end of the tunnel. Many American companies are bringing their factories back to the United States. This promises the return of at least some high paying manufacturing jobs, though admittedly not as many as we lost. And, as with the factories of fifty years ago, they need skilled workers to work in them.
Also the massive strikes and walkouts of fast food workers who are striving for the 15 dollar an hour nationwide Minimum Wage are how the first unions organized in the first place. So, what is the future of organized Labor in the United States? That remains to be seen.
As it is right now, there is plenty of uncertainty still, but there is also beginning to be room for hope. As far as Labor Day goes, I’m going to be on my back porch, grilling with my wife, watching the kids run around in the back yard.
The Graffiti Bridge wishes everyone a fun, happy and safe Labor Day, and many many more to come. To your family from ours. And as always, may we meet again soon, at The Graffiti Bridge.