Caidin wanted to know what Labor Day is and why we have it. Off to google I went. I get stuck in the details. I understand the broad concept, or with words for example, I know how to use them, but ask me to define specifically and I say things like, ‘It’s a day for workers not to work.’ My husband just rolls his eyes at me, so lately I’ve just taken to saying, ‘let me get a good definition for you.’
Wikipedia defines Labor Day as: The American federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September (September 3 in 2012) that celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers.
‘So why do they call it labor day’, asks Caidin? Of course that would be the next logical question. ‘Doesn’t labor day, mean work day? Wouldn’t laborer day make more sense?’
‘Yup, I think your right, laborer or worker day might make more sense, but it’s called Labor Day.’
I went on to read the rest of the Wikipedia page, ‘union initiated, celebrated in individual states first, made a federal holiday after the deaths of several striking union workers during the Pullman Strike in 1864.’
‘What’s a union? And what’s the Pullman Strike?’ More good question from Caidin that I did not have the answer to, but fortunately Wikipedia was still open on my browser.
‘A union is an organization of workers who come together to make sure they get fair pay and receive fair treatment,’ I explained. This led to a whole conversation about what fair pay and fair treatment means and ended with the exasperated statement from Caidin, ‘why wouldn’t someone just treat others fairly?’ Which led to a discussion about Capitalism, we briefly touch on the upcoming Presidential election and the platforms of the two parties, before Caidin said, ‘…and the Pullman Strike? What was that?’
Back to Wikipedia,
The Pullman Strike occurred in Pullman, Illinois in 1864 when nearly 4000 workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company (they built Pullman Railroad cars) initiated a wildcat strike in response to wage reductions and the control that Pullman wielded by owning everything in the town, thereby setting the rates on everything from housing to food .’ I went on ‘The Pullman workers did not have a union, so Eugene Debs, founder of the ARU, a union that represented the unskilled railroad workers got involved. When Pullman wouldn’t discuss a solution (arbitrate) Debs called for a boycott and 250,000 workers west of Detroit in 27 states began interfering with the movement of the cars. The Conductors and Porters did not get involved. President Grover Cleveland claimed constitutional responsibility to keep the mail moving (mail was moved via the trains) and called in 1000 US Marshals and 12,000 US Army persons to stop the violence and sabotage. In the end the riots and sabotage cost $80 million in damages and 13 strikers were killed and 57 wounded. And today, we have Labor Day. It became federal holiday in 1894 after the strike as an attempt from President Cleveland and Congress to both appease and acknowledge organized labor. Interestingly the legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday was pushed through Congress in just six days, immediately after the strike ended.
So the next time someone asks you ‘what’s Labor Day all about,’ you now have something more than ‘it’s a day that workers don’t work.’
I’m still not sure how the mattress sales fit into Labor Day though, Wikipedia didn’t have anything to say about that.
© 2012 Christine Agro
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Christine Agro is a clairvoyant, naturopath, Master Herbalist, conscious mom and author of 50 Ways to Live Life Consciously as well as of The Conscious Living Wisdom Cards (Special Moms’ Edition). Christine is founder of The Conscious Mom’s Guide , a membership site where she helps support you on your own journey of living life consciously and on your journey of being a Conscious parent. You can also join Christine on Facebook. To contact Christine, invite her to speak or to schedule an appointment with her please email her.