One hundred and twenty two years ago, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation declaring the first Monday in September as Labor Day. Today, this holiday is more linked to the unofficial end of summer, the beginning of the school year or the start of football season. What has been forgotten is that it celebrates American workers’ contributions to our society.
The notion of celebrating the American worker first surfaced in the early 1880s during the labor movement’s infancy. Regrettably, it took a nationwide railroad strike of nearly 4,000 factory employees in the infamous Pullman strike of 1894 to get things started. The wildcat strike was in response to reductions in wages. In the end, 30 people were killed at the hands of the U.S. military, and the 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. Thus began more than a century of recognition and homage to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our nation.
While it is true that in 1894 it was important to recognize American workers, our contemporary society must follow suit and celebrate their importance. This is especially true under the difficult and challenging economic conditions of the past decade.
Throughout these demanding times, American workers continue to lead the world in productivity, as they work longer hours than their global counterparts. American workers strive to build the highest standard of living in the world and they often do it without recognition or praise. I believe the American workforce could go on and on. This Labor Day, let’s not forget the successes of the American worker and the critical roles they continue to play in making this a great nation.
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