What does Labor Day mean to you? Summer’s last hurrah? An extra day to sleep in, extend a weekend trip, or (ugh) tackle a home improvement project? Something else entirely, or all of the above? I neither expect, nor want, this to change any plans or mindset, but as U.S. federal holidays go, I find the history and meaning of Labor Day to be fascinating.
1777 – The first unions were organized in the United States by printers, carpenters and shoemakers, seeking better wages and shorter hours.
1825 – The United Tailoresses of New York, the first all-women’s union, is formed in New York City.
1827 – The Mechanics Union of Trade Associations forms in Philadelphia to call for a standardized 10-hour workday.
1840 – President Martin Van Buren establishes a 10-hour workday for federal workers.
1868 – The first federal 8-hour labor law is passed, but only applies to a small group of federal workers.
1885-1886 – Several municipalities around the United States declare Labor Day ordinances – a day of rest to recognize the social and economic achievements of American workers.
1887 – Oregon passes the first state-wide Labor Day observance law. Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York follow suit this same year.
1891 – Labor Day is established as a national holiday by the Congress of the United States.
I don’t have the space (or the will) to get in to a detailed discourse on the highs (and lows) of the achievements (and setbacks) of the American working class through the 20th Century. If I did, I’d choose to focus on the positive. Almost everyone I know who’s in the American work force – family, friends, neighbors, and especially my co-workers at EXAIR – enjoys a safe work environment, fair wages & benefits, and opportunities unavailable anywhere else in the world. So, Monday, I’ll take the day off that our forebears fought and earned for us.
If you’d like to talk about a compressed air product application, give me a call. On Tuesday.
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DJ Spock photo courtesy of geraldford. Creative Commons License