Does Labor Day honor those who work to produce America’s bounty?
Of course that should be the purpose of our national Labor Day holiday. It is not. Labor Day was adopted as a national holiday in 1894 to mollify labor unions that had from time to time rioted since 1865. The Haymarket riot in Chicago in 1886 is often credited with the political push to enact a Federal Holiday to honor labor (unions). It started as a orderly demonstration. The police were called and tensions escalated. There is no doubt demons entered into some demonstrators and the rioters became a mob; a bomb was thrown. Terror ensued and police fired weapons for a reported 2 minutes. Seven police and four strikers were killed, hundreds wounded.
It did not work out as planned—
The country was in the throes of the 1893 (economic) panic. The Pullman Company was forced to cut back. They apparently decided to cut wages instead of payroll. The unionized Pullman workforce reacted strongly. Demonstrations turned to riots. Riots turned to destruction. Hundreds of railroad cars were burned.
Democrat President Grover Cleveland sent in Federal troops. The Pullman Strike became the first national strike in United States history. Before coming to an end, it involved over 150,000 persons in twenty-seven states and territories. The Pullman strike paralyzed the nation’s railway system. The entire rail labor force in America nation walked away from their jobs.
In an effort to deal with labor demonstrations that typically became mobs, cities, as well as States, enacted labor holidays. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. The U.S. Department of Labor characterizes Labor Day in clear “Social Justice” terms:
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
There should not and need not be connotations of “social justice” or celebrations of union thuggery as we celebrate the virtue of work in America. I believe productive work is a cornerstone for America. When we honor that labor, we honor America. I propose we turn away from the past form of labor remembrance to honoring America by honoring the Americans who work. Let us start September 3, 2012.