Labor Day: The Reason We Celebrate

labor day, man working

Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

A more important question might be, “what does Labor Day mean to the average person?” Most likely if you were to ask ten people that question, their unanimous reply would be “a day off.” Though it might be hard to believe, that response means that the true spirit of Labor Day prevails. The day began as a focus on the plight of the average worker.

A Stroll Through History

All that said, however, the history of Labor Day bears looking into, if for no other reason than to serve as a reminder of just how good we have it when compared to the average worker in the days before Labor Day came to be. Labor Day became an official holiday in 1894, and it brought attention to the horrible conditions people worked under in those days. Workers often had to work six or seven days a week, 10 or 12 hour days for twenty or thirty cents a day in dangerous environments.

The Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911 showed just how bad conditions were. It was a fire that lasted about 20 minutes and in which 146 workers were killed. There were no sprinklers and only one fire escape, so it was nearly impossible to get out.

The reality of those days in history was that workers had to work in order to survive, and if they got hurt on the job there was no insurance to help them; no unemployment or federal assistance of any kind was available. Many companies that hired the workers exploited those realities to drive their workers down as hard as they could.

Birth of a Union

It was then that unions formed, and though today most are not a big fan of unions, they were sorely needed back then. Not only did unions give workers a strong voice but they drew attention to the needs of the workers in the form of shorter work weeks, safe work environments, and better wages. Over time reforms were made and Labor Day was enacted to celebrate the many changes taking place at the time.

When one looks at our work environments today, they see nothing in comparison to what they were back then. Today we have many choices when it comes to finding better jobs, and many of those jobs come with things that were unheard of then, like Paid Vacation, Sick Days, Health Insurance and Retirement. Moreover, if we are out of work, we have unemployment and Medicaid if we need it.

More importantly, state and federal regulatory agencies give us places to go to if we have grievances that need to be heard. Sure, none of it is perfect, but if you take a look at history, those workers would say that we are in heaven compared to them. The fact that those reforms have taken place over time and the fact that unions have become political as well as abusive toward the industries they are supposed to be partnering with have lessened their overall usefulness.

Actually two significant strikes drew attention to the seemingly unbridled power of the unions, coupled with their apparent disregard for the public as a whole. The Longshoremen’s strike in 2002, and the Air Traffic Controllers strike in 1981. These strikes crippled many citizens and businesses that had no connection with either of these two unions or their members, yet we were all made to suffer the consequences over the lack of agreements between parties.

Full Swing of the Pendulum

Regardless of whether or not the strikes were justified, many people came away with the idea that unions do not serve a real purpose today and are the reason costs of goods are so high. Call it the full swing of the pendulum if you will. A hundred years ago unions were the heroes of the people, but today not so much.

Yet beyond its history, there is a little more to the holiday than meets the eye, so take note. There was once a tradition dating back to the 1800s that one couldn’t wear white after Labor Day, but those of you who have had concerns take heart, that tradition no longer applies. More importantly, Labor Day marks the end of the Hot Dog eating season, so you better get them while you can.

Ted Beagleman / Senior Contributor
I write political satire and biting commentary on social media. I have an eye for spotting the ridiculousness of Democrats and “never-Trumper” Republicans. I am a biker and American patriot who is ready for liberty and truth to prevail in America.
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