Today in America, we celebrate Labor Day. Many consider it nothing more than a day off. Those employed in retail, work today and use the holiday as an opportunity to advertise sales. Few know or recall the origins of Labor Day. Like so much else in America’s rich history, time and a lack of attention is dimming our knowledge of our heritage. That bothers me and, if you’re American, it should bother you. So let’s get reacquainted with ourselves and our holiday.
Over a hundred years ago, the first Labor Day was observed with a holiday for workers. There’s some dispute on who first proposed it. Some say it was a secretary for the American Federation of Labor, a man named Peter McGuire. Others say the proposal came from a New Jersey machinist from New York. The Central Labor Union did pass a proposal to hold a demonstration and a picnic in New York.
The government got involved in 1885 through municipal ordinances, but in short order—June 28, 1894, Congress declared the first Monday in September a legal holiday in DC and “the territories.”
Who first celebrated Labor Day? The Central Labor Union in New York City on September 5, 1882. There was a parade honoring the workers for their contributions to the strength and prosperity of the nation and a festival with speeches by prominent civic leaders. The Sunday before Labor Day was, according to the Department of Labor, “adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.”
Today there are fewer parades, fewer festivals, and fewer civic-sponsored gatherings. Americans seem to be losing their fierce defense of national identity and embracing more small gatherings with family and friends for picnics, ball games, and private celebrations.
What I hope will continue in any gathering or no gathering at all is a deep appreciation of the American Worker. That celebration and his or her contributions to our nation’s well being, prosperity and growth, is what Labor Day is all about.
Labor Sunday has been obscured for many years—but it need not remain so. The believers among us are well aware of the deep dies between faith and country, our freedoms are endowed by our Creator, and that includes our freedom to work. We are also endowed with the ability to work, and that warrants remembrance of Labor Sunday.
At a time when forty-six percent of our work force is out of work, and staggering numbers of our work force are under-employed, let us remember to pray for our workers—for both their freedom and their ability to work.
Labor Day isn’t just about picnics and festivals and parades or ball games at family gatherings. It’s a day to count our blessings for all those who toil and work hard every day and enrich the quality of life for all of us because they do.
Enjoy the sales at the local mall. Enjoy the celebration. But most of all remember that each day you enjoy the fruits of the American Worker’s labor. Every time you flip a switch to turn on a light, remember the electrician who wired it. The manufacturer who made the light, the bulb. We are blessed with a lifestyle not enjoyed by many in the world. And because we are, we tend to take it for granted.
We forget that no one owes us anything. No one is obligated to provide us with anything other than the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We forget that the people who work hard every day are the heart of America, and historically, they have been.
I hope you had a lovely Labor Sunday and that you enjoy a very blessed and…
Happy Labor Day!