It’s the first Monday of September and not only is it the symbolic end of summer but today is a federal holiday. Labor Day is not uniqely American. It’s celebrated at different times in countries around the world but for pretty much the same reasons. According to the U.S. Department of Labor web site Labor Day, here in the states, is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It goes on to say the American labor force has added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known…. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker. Here, here!
Our Labor Day was first observed 129 years ago today (1882) by a New York state labor movement. Twelve years later Congress approved it as a national holiday literally on the heels of a strike that went awry. It was the infamous Pullman strike in which U.S. Marshals and Army troops killed 13 striking workers. President Grover Cleveland to offer recompense and appease the labor movement rushed the legislation through Congress and it was signed into law just six days after the strike ended.
Here in the United States the holiday is celebrated as a three-day weekend with the staples of food, relaxation and street parades from our smallest communities to our largest cities. And let’s not forget those big Labor Day sales, it’s time to celebrate! Picnics and Bar-B-Ques are always in order and the beginning of football season as well. In the circles of high society Labor Day marks the day it’s no longer proper for women to wear white. At least it used to. Like most of our holidays it used to mean more. Nowadays not so much. Our American holidays for many are little more than an opportunity to play. Just another lazy, hazy, crazy day of summer. While families gather and festivities prevail there is nary a thought for the meaning behind the day. So it goes as well for Labor Day, that’s the American way.
For those of us who are among the unemployed Labor Day leaves a sting. Officially 9.1% of Americans, or 14-million are without work. Realistically it’s a lot more. Estimates are common that at least 20-million of our citizens are unemployed, some say it could be more than 30-million. Among those not included in the official numbers are those not receiving unemployment benefits and the ones who have given up looking. Indications are for many there is little immediate hope. Our economy continues to be sluggish at best and most economists don’t expect employment horizons to improve until at least late next year. A week ago today Merck, the New Jersey pharmaceutical company — and among the world’s largest — announced layoffs for 13,000 of it’s employees by 2015. The company however says it plans to hire in growing markets such as China. Makes me ill. Wonder if they have a pill for that?
So while those of us left in the dust struggle to make ends meet; and while our politicians, bureaucrats and all those they look to — for advice and counsel — contrive schemes to solve these pressing issues of our day, we Americans will make the best of this national holiday. Afterall it’s time to party! But still for some of us it’s hard to be festive.