The first officially recognized Labor Day was celebrated on September 5th, 1882 in New York City. In 1894, it was finally recognized as a federal holiday to honor the American worker. Yes, the worker – the man or woman who gives the best years of their lives to various corporations in exchange for a pittance of the profits – not the CEOs and Wall Street hedge fund managers who have tanked our economy on more than one occasion.
While corporate interests may have given us the first intercontinental railroad or brought us the $0.99 iPhone that you’re currently using to take pictures of your Labor Day cookout (it’s not a BBQ unless it’s done low and slow over a wood fire) for Instagram, none of these accomplishments would have been possible without the worker.
This country was built from the blood, sweat and tears of men and women from all over the world. They gave everything they had – including their lives – to give us railways, interstates and a communications grid. Labor Day itself would not have been brought about if it were not for the collective representation of various workers known as a union.
You know those hot dogs, hamburgers, brats, beers or veggie burgers you’ll be consuming this weekend? They weren’t magically produced in that alternate universe where trickle-down economics actually works; and they sure didn’t flow down from the mythical world where the soul of Sam Walton creates jobs and slashes prices from beyond the grave. The food and the weekend we’re enjoying were created by working people like you and I who struggle to make it from paycheck to paycheck. Faceless men or women you’ll probably never meet, who got up before dawn and kissed their kids goodbye while they were still asleep, worked all day at the factory and then came home to get just a few minutes with them before falling asleep to do it all over again.
This holiday is not to celebrate the homes of the rich and famous in the Hamptons. Labor Day is for the workers – without them, the 1% would not be where they are. Without workers, there wouldn’t be products to sell, or the stores to purchase them in. If you want to thank someone for this extended weekend, thank a union – because if it wasn’t for them, we would all be going back to work on Monday.
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