As summer quickly fades into memory we once again celebrate its close and the beginning of autumn with Labor Day. To most of us Labor means only one thing…a 3 day weekend.
However as we continue to struggle through what seems like an endless recession, Labor Day is the perfect time to appreciate what makes our nation great. How Labor Day comes to be is a matter of which version of history you believe. The two most commonly accepted stories revolve around Peter J. McGuire, a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, and Matthew Maguire from the International Association of Machinists. However there is another version of Labor Day history.
Labor Day was first celebrated in New York on September 5, 1882. At this time it was not an official government holiday. A couple of years prior to the 1882 celebration, George Pullman founded the perfect industrial town, Pullman, IL. The town not only housed the manufacturing facilities that built Pullman Rail Cars it housed all the employees that built those cars. One of if not the first company town, something that became common in the Coal Mining Industry.
Everything was wonderful in Pullman, workers had housing (which be the way was owned by the company), wages were considered fair, and things looked wonderful. As the saying goes, all good things must end, and end they did in Pullman, IL. The economy had turned south and by 1893 the country found itself in the midst of a depression. The Pullman Company begin lowering wages, however rents remained at pre-depression levels. As take home wages declined, unrest took hold and workers walked off the job. Pretty soon railroad workers across the country began to rally around the workers in Pullman and boycotted training with Pullman Cars.
The boycott proved disruptive to the economy and hampered mail delivery. President Grove Cleveland declared the strike illegal and sent armed troops to Pullman. The violence that ensued resulted in the deaths of two workers and Pullman workers were required to sign a pledge that they would never participate in Union activity.
The political fallout was swift and immediate. Cleveland needed something to prove he supported the American Worker. The Labor Day legislation was pushed through congress and became law just 6 days after the Pullman Strike.
As you fire up the grill this weekend, watch some football and prepare for winter, takes some time to be thankful to the American Worker, to the women and men who mine our coal, mill our steel, protect and serve, and put themselves in harms way to protect our way of life.
Happy Labor Day