Friday, September 3, 2010

Labor Day Weekend is here!

Labor Day Parade 1882 Union Square New York
As a coal miner’s great granddaughter, and one who has researched just how bad (and dangerous) it was earning a living “down in the hole,” a mile below the surface, I consider Labor Day to be more than a reason to have picnics or for politicians to glad hand their constituents. However, in appreciation of all those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold,”* I am prepared to enjoy a cold Guinness and to eat Polish sausage, macaroni salad, cole slaw, baked beans, etc.

A little history on the holiday from The Dept. of Labor website: The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The CLU urged similar organizations in other cities across the country to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. With the growth of labor organizations, the idea spread, and in 1885, Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
Coal Miners in the cage (elevator)
By 1894, 23 states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

So have an enjoyable weekend. Be careful driving, use sun screen, and watch the kiddies around the water.

*That is a quote from Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor and one of two candidates for the founding of Labor Day. The other possibility is Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey. In 1882, he made his proposal while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Since I grew up in East Paterson, New Jersey, I’m voting for Matthew Maguire.


  1. Have a great labour day over there all of you. Unions are very very important. Margaret Thatcher tried to smash them over here but they are still vibrant and necessary.

    From Tony Grant, a member of the NUT (The National Union of Teachers)and a local schools union representative.

  2. I loved the history. It's always a great idea to do a little research about the things we do and things people enjoy. I use a book entitled "Celebrations the Complete (something just forgot next word) of American Holidays. It may be useful for you too.

  3. Thanks for the tip, Suzan.

    Hey Tony, If you want to understand why unions are so important in the U.S., I'd suggest reading about the 1902 coal strike in Pennsylvania. My grandparents were young when that was happening. Unions are a volatile topic in the U.S. right now or I would say more.

  4. Thanks Mary. I looked up a couple of sites about the 1902 coal strike.The U.S. department of labor provide a clear explanation. Two things struck me, first, the mine owners would not negotiate with the miners unions and the government and President Roosevelt as good as negotiated for them (stood as arbitrator anyway.)This was the first time your government had taken an impartial stance in relation to unions and the working man. The government also had a very thorough survey carried out by Carol D. Wright which highlighted clearly both side positions. The mine workers were after better pay, and working conditions, ( as ever). The owners position was highlighted by a statement from George Baer, spokesman for the operators,who said that the "rights and interests of the laboring man will be protected and cared for--not by the labor agitators, but by the Christian men to whom God in His infinite wisdom has given the control of the property interests of the country." OH YES!!!!! Can you just see that as a final solution?

    The miners were on the point of starvation too!!!!!!!