Today, most of us aren’t thinking about the origin of Labor Day. The Department of Labor says it’s meant to be a national tribute to the contributions of American workers to the strength, prosperity, and well-being they bring to our country. If you browse around Google, you are reminded that the holiday was started by a boycott and a strike of workers. On September 5, 1882, low wages and layoffs by the Pullman company erupted in a fiery protest by the workers. The resulting boycott of the railroad caused a tremendous mess and inconvenience. The power of the people. The government made the first Monday in September a national paid holiday in 1884, dubbed as a workingman holiday.
Fun to think about the How of things. But for most of us, Labor Day now marks the official end of summer. We grab one more day to eat burgers and potato salad, before we wake up to pack lunches and get the kids off to school.
As a youth who hated school, I remember wonderful Labor Day cookouts with friends and neighbors. Potato salad is still one of my favorite foods, along with watermelon. Even when I dreaded a return to school, I loved the celebration.
Conditions for workers in the early days of the industrial revolution were pretty horrible. Labor Day celebrates changes in those conditions by honoring the workers of that age and on. But things change. My biggest regret is the change in watermelon. Remember holding a dripping hunk of watermelon is your hands, biting off a big chunk, then spitting out the seeds? No more seeds to spit—where’s the fun of that?
Seriously, thanks to all those workers, starting with the brave men and women who stood up to improve conditions at great risk to themselves, and right up until now, for the hard work they do to give us the most wonderful lives we live in America.