This coming Labor Day, we will once again, celebrate the American Worker. It is rather sad that most Americans probably do not have a clue about how it became a holiday. The why is fairly simple, it is a day of appreciation for the contributions that the American worker has made to the nation’s prosperity.
For a lot of Americans the Labor Day weekend only represents the end of summer.
It is unclear who came up with the idea first in the good olde US of A. There is a dispute as to whether Matthew Maguire, a machinist, while secretary of the CLU, came up with the idea first or whether it was Peter McGuire, a carpenter, in the AFL. Peter McGuire had witnessed a street parade in Canada, and he thought it would be a good idea to have something like that in the USA. Both men came up with the idea in 1882.
Oregon was the first state to declare a state holiday and many states had also done so, when the act that precipitated Labor Day being a national holiday took place.
The Pullman strike of 1894 was the first national strike to take place in America.
George M. Pullman was the founder of a company that made Pullman (Sleepering)cars for trains, and luxury cars as well. He built a company town south of Chicago where his workers lived. On the surface the town appeared quite nice with its parks and library.
As it turned out some of the homes did not have any plumbing. The costs to rent the homes was around 25% higher than the average cost of a home to rent in the area.
During 1893, tough times occurred in the nation and Mr. Pullman cut the wages of his workers in that year by about 25% without lowering the rents. This caused quite a hardship among the workers and they had meetings and decided to be part of a union, the American Railroad Union, headed by Eugene Debs.
They struck the railroads which caused quite a disruption of the movement of goods in the nation, so much so, that the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland felt it necessary to call out the military, the national guard, and many U.S. Marshals as well.
Once the military arrived the local strikers became quite angry and destroyed property and what resulted was that the military fired upon the strikers killing around 30 people.
As a result of the furor, that occurred at Pullman, Illinois, President Cleveland felt it necessary to give a conciliatory gesture to the Unions by having Congress pass a Labor Day national holiday. The measure passed without a single no vote. It became law within 6 days of the violence that took place during the strike.
It is a day still celebrated with fewer parades, perhaps, but with the recognition that by the toil and sweat of the American worker, America became an economic power to be reckoned with and made goods that we as Americans were proud of because they were made here in the USA.
Enjoy the holiday and be thankful and appreciative of those who have worked so hard.