Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor Day

I did a bit of reading recently on the history of the Labor Day holiday in the United States. The first Labor Day was a limited celebration held on September 5, 1882 in Union Square of New York City. Workers took an unpaid day off work to try to help build support for a national holiday of workers and laborers. The day became an official federal and state holiday in 1894 after President Grover Cleveland (the only two-term president who did not serve consecutive terms) personally pushed it through congress. The holiday, which was assigned to the first Monday in September, was originally established with a mandate to exhibit in a public way the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations in the United States. It was only decades later that it morphed into a recognition of the end of summer celebrated with backyard barbeques and the start of the college and professional football seasons.

Actually the national Labor Day holiday was originally established mainly for political reasons after the United States military and United States Marshals were called into a working-class, company-owned Illinois town to deal with a potentially heated situation sparked by a strike at the Pullman railway car company. Somehow the situation got out of control and 13 strikers were killed and many were wounded. President Cleveland, working to save face for his party in an election year, got behind the holiday in an effort to quell tensions that arose due to the Illinois debacle that he helped to create and inflame with his seemingly harsh actions, and to help appease the strong labor unions across the country with some high-level public recognition and pandering.

Anyway, just some fun information for you to share with your cookout guests to get the conversation a-flowin' to fill in those awkward pauses in between mouthfuls of potato salad. Enjoy your day off.