Laboring the Weekend Away: 123 years Later
Labor Day Weekend: for many, this three-day weekend represents the final fling of summer.For others in the San Luis Valley, it’s the last warm-weather holiday for backyard cookouts before the cooler weather sends people indoors. For those living in Saguache Today, it’s heart-felt thank you to all who toil away, so that others may enjoy the fruits of your LABOR. But first, a quick reminder that tonight’s usual Monday Night Ester Mae’s Soup Kitchen at the 4th Street Diner is taking a “pass” this week (Sept. 4), but will be back with some great deliciousness on September 11.
So for those who do have to work today, it’s a special Happy Labor Day to you, the American worker for whom this holiday was created 123 years ago. The roots of this celebration can be traced back to a time when the U.S. workforce was experiencing great transition. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and people were trading in their rural farm lives for the dream of a secure, year-round income that came with a factory job. Unfortunately, they often found themselves toiling 12 – 14 hour days in dingy, and sometimes dangerous conditions.
It was his outrage concerning these working conditions that prompted Peter McGuire, a leader of the carpenters union, with the idea of a day for workers to show their solidarity. So in 1882, they had a big parade in New York. Workers showed their disdain for working conditions by carrying signs that read, “Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest and eight hours for recreation!” The whole happening turned out to be more of a festival than a demonstration. There were picnics and fireworks, plus everyone took the day off from work.
The demonstration was successful in capturing the interest of the nation, motivating President Grover Cleveland to sign a bill making the first Monday in September a national holiday honoring the American worker. Ultimately, his gesture was viewed as political, trying to appease an unhappy constituency concerning his handling of a labor strike at the Pullman Company in Chicago which left 34 people dead. Cleveland’s scheme did not work. While Labor Day was established as a national holiday, the president lost his bid for re-election.