Thursday, September 1, 2011

Labor Day, An American Celebration

The Library will be closed on Labor Day, as should all work places. Other countries have an International Workers Day, but Labor Day is a United States federal holiday.  It became a federal holiday in 1894 because of the deaths of workers by the U.S. Military and the U.S. Marshals sent by President Grover Cleveland to end the Pullman Strike. 
Fearing more violence, President Cleveland made peace with the labor movement his top political priority. (It was an election year!)  Legislation making Labor Day a national holiday swept through Congress unanimously and was signed into law within six days of the end of the strike.  All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories of the US made it a statutory holiday. (1)
How to celebrate Labor Day was actually laid out in the original proposal for the holiday:  a parade to show “the strength and espirit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a party for workers and their families. (2)  In 1898, Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, called it "the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed...that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it."
This Labor Day, as we fire up the grills or take a final summer vacation, remember those who struggled for your right to a day off--and enjoy your holiday!
Cheryl Metz, Reference Librarian

1)      Origins of Labor Day.
2)      The History of Labor Day. US Department of Labor.

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