Tuesday, August 31, 2010
LABOR DAY REFLECTION
Labor Day, the creation of organized labor meant to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers, has become an annual tribute to the contributions our nation’s workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
New York City workers celebrated the first Labor Day in 1882. The first governmental recognition for the Holiday came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. Oregon became the first state to enact a law recognizing the Holiday in 1887. By 1894, 30 other states had followed suite in honoring workers. Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday shortly thereafter.
A street parade exhibiting to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families were focal points of the first Holiday. As time passed, speeches have placed more emphasis on the economic and civic significance of the holiday than on the labor organizations at its roots.
The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone changes in recent years. It has become associated with the end of summer and a return to “business as usual.” Children return to school (delayed until after the Holiday by many states until the “vacation season” is done). With private sector union representation declining in our country, it has become a day to celebrate the American worker, his or her lifestyle, and the contribution our workforce has made to making ours one of the highest standards of living with the greatest rate of productivity the world has ever known.
At issue as we celebrate another Labor Day is whether or not the values of our past will carry forward into the future – whether the impact that generations of independent, hard-working individuals have had on our country and its wealth – will survive.
We should pause to consider that Labor Day recognizes and celebrates the American Workforce –the spirit that anyone can succeed if he or she is willing to identify a goal, to work hard towards its accomplishment and to sacrifice much for its fulfillment. Do not allow Labor Day to become simply another day off from work. It has grown beyond being a “worker’s Holiday” to a time meant to recognize the work we have accomplished and to celebrate the work that must still be done.