In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation declaring the first Monday in September as Labor Day. Today, this holiday is linked more to the unofficial end of summer, the beginning of the school year or the start of football season. What has been forgotten about this long weekend is that it celebrates American workers’ contributions to our society.
The notion of celebrating the American worker first surfaced in the early 19th century. Unfortunately, it took a nationwide railroad strike of nearly 4,000 factory employees — the 1894 Pullman strike — to get things started. The strike was response to reductions in wages. Thirty people were killed at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S marshals, and striker violence caused $80 million in damages.
To conciliate organized labor after the strike, President Cleveland and Congress declared Labor Day a national holiday. This would begin more than a century of recognition and homage to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our nation.
Today, more than ever, we must remember to celebrate the hard-working men and women of all races, colors and creeds for their commitment to the exceptional American work experience. This is especially true under the difficult and challenging economic conditions of the past decade.
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I am honored to oversee our team of state employees who strive each day to ensure that Florida workers are treated fairly, are given access to all employment opportunities and are not subject to unlawful discrimination.
As we look forward to this long weekend, let’s remember the many successes of the American worker and the critical roles they continue to play in making this a great nation.
Florida Commission on Human Relations, Tallahassee