Thursday, August 29, 2013

Labor Day - Thank a Worker

Labor Day Parade NYC 1882
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.

*Two of my great grandfathers were killed in roof falls in the mines. A third died of pneumonia in his thirties, and the fourth broke is leg in a roof fall and developed emphysema. My grandfathers were both picking slate in the mines before they were twelve and were mule drivers in their teens. Fortunately, as adults, they found jobs above ground.

**That is a quote from Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder 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.