Labor Day: About Workers, Not Summer

labor-day

In June 1894, Congress official declared Labor Day, the first Monday in September, an official national holiday. It was born from the creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It continues to constitute a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Over time, it has become apparent that not one in a hundred Americans know it. Why elementary schools teach nothing about this important and inspiring movement, is a mystery.  Many believe it marks the end of summer, a time for retail stores to offer sales, but few of us think about the true meaning of the word “labor” in the name “labor day”, and how it is supposed to honor the brave men and women who fought for labor justice to ensure an equitable measure of safety, fairness and justice in the workplace that began at the end of the 19th century.

The economic and workplace safety standards which American workers benefit from today comes on the backs of those who fought hard against what was once a cruel, exploitive, feudal and sometimes deadly industrial and manufacturing system. This is an epic story that all Americans should know, teach to their children and take pride in, on this Labor Day and every other.

Whatever the reason for not knowing why we celebrate Labor Day, it is disgraceful, for the achievements of the labor movement are every bit as important and inspiring as those of the civil rights movement and the achievements of our armed forces in the protection of liberty to our homeland.

This weekend we celebrate Labor Day, or do we, rather, celebrate the end of summer or another day off from work?  Labor Day, like so many national holidays, has lost its meaning by not being taught in schools, at home, and for not being remembered for why we get off the first Monday every September, often with pay. Enjoy this holiday by being safe and responsible, and by helping to pass on the true meaning of Labor Day.

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