Sam Bauman: Labor Day has changed since its establishment



Labor Day was celebrated in the United States on Monday. It is aimed at hailing workers (labor traditionally means working for one day for pay with no assurances of future employment).

Today’s Labor Day is far cry from its early days. According to Wikipedia, “Secretary of the Central Labor Union Matthew Maguire is credited for first proposing that a national Labor Day holiday subsequently be held on the first Monday of each September in the aftermath of this successful public demonstration. It became a federal holiday in 1894.”

But how different it is now from its early history. Back when it was new, the unions marshaled large members to parade and celebrate the unheralded “labor” man.

How different today’s Labor Day. No big parades of workers, just an unofficial end of summer.

More from Wikipedia: “The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal for the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” followed by a festival for the workers and their friends and families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the Labor movement.

“Following the deaths of workers at the hands of United States Army and United States Marshals Service during the Pullman Strike of 1894 in Chicago, the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday and President Grover Cleveland signed it into law six days after the end of the strike. Cleveland supported the creation of the national holiday in an attempt to shore up support among trade unions following the Pullman Strike. The date of May 1 (an ancient European holiday known as May Day) was an alternative date, celebrated then (and now) as International Workers’ Day, but President Cleveland was concerned that observance of Labor Day on May 1 would encourage Haymarket-style protests and would strengthen socialist and anarchist movements that, though distinct from one another, had rallied to commemorate the Haymarket Affair on International Workers’ Day.

“All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the United States territories have made Labor Day a statutory federal holiday.”

Yesterday’s Labor Day was celebrated quietly, very few parades. Those most significantly marking the day were merchants and entertainment venues, happily using the day to do business.

Change is inevitable, but even I can recall the Labor Day parades of yore. Even farmers in mid-Ohio considered themselves to be “labor.”

More clean-up thoughts

I decided to neaten up a pile of books on the computer room floor and I found some surprises as I glanced at the volumes, some read, some half-read, some untouched. I was surprised to find a beaten copy of 1941’s “Darkness at Noon,” Arthur Koestler’s expose of a totalitarian life under “No. 1,” head of an unidentified political party. I remember it for my pre-college days when joining the CP was a youthful lark. The book changed my view of politics and I remained an easy liberal.

Then there was Michael Lewis’ brilliant expose of the reasons for the recent recession. A brilliant work, which laid it all out and named bad guys. It was all so predictable, Lewis explains.

And Charles Dickens’ “A Tale of Two Cities” begins with these famous lines, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” as it paints a picture of life in England and France. The year is late 1775, and a man travels from London to Paris on a secret mission for his employer, Tellson’s Bank. This is a monumental work on one of the more critical times of the 19th century.

It also reminds me that I failed to honor a self-promise to read something of Dickens’ yearly.

Also a volume of Ernest Hemingway’s short stories. One came back to me in memory: “The Big Two-hearted River,” a low-key work about a confused man coming back from bad things, probably a war, slowly regaining his life although he still faces a challenge “deep in the swamp.”

Then two of my novels, “Then God is Forgiven” and “The Paper Pimps,” my look at working on men’s magazine.

Many more books to check out.

Sam Bauman writes about senior affairs, among other things, for the Nevada Appeal.


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