The Founding of Labor Day
Published on Friday, September 4, 2020
Founding of Labor Day
In the 18th century the American Colonies were developed in an attempt to solve the overpopulation problem in England. There was an abundance of craftsman available, but not enough work to keep them working. This created an unbalanced situation of supply and demand of workers versus jobs in England. This situation assisted in prompting the development of the American Colonies. The need for craftsmen in America was great and opportunities were presented for those unemployed craftsman in England. The flow of immigrants to the colonies was still not enough to meet the needs of the fast growing new country. Unfortunately, slavery provided a source of manpower to meet the needs of this fast growing country which is some of the first evidence of worker exploitation here in America. There is even evidence of striking in the late 1700’s relating to the involuntary reduction of wages and walkouts to have a 12 hour 7 day work week instead of a 16 hour 7 day work week by worker who’s average age was 13 years old.
Families who were looking for opportunities in the colonies found themselves and their families exploited to the exporters of travel to the Americas. Men, women, children and entire families were all a part of these agreements between exporters and those looking for labor in the colonies. The agreement for passage to the colonies allowed the exporters to auction them for labor upon arrival. This labor was to be provided to the employers in the colonies for a certain period of time (years). After the commitment was fulfilled, then they would earn their freedom from this form of slavery. Some of these workers never escaped the bonds of this form of slavery, if opportunity did not come their way, they would have to continue to allow themselves to be used for labor. There was no freedom for some workers in the land of the free.
The effect on the people in the colonies, who found this type of service to their employers unbearable, was positive. This was a time when workers decided they would not stand for abuse and exploitation. Workers began to unite and talk about respect and a better way of life for them and their families and in action they began to demand and fight for it.
With exploitation occurring as we speak, this fight rages on today. But, thank God for those who stood up then and said, “I deserve respect and fair treatment for my service to you”, ‘even though it was not the popular thing to do,’ as public opinion was against this form of activity.
As the century moved forward, coalitions for workers justice were formed; experiencing much resistance from corporate America and the general public. Public opinion was not on their side. But, these determined workers would not be denied their right to do, what we call today, “the right to organize”.
The first sign of a movement for a Labor Day celebration began in 1882. Union workers (Knights of Labor; Founded in 1869) took an unpaid day off in New York and marched around Union Square, celebrating the working class people of America coining the phrase “working mans day off”. In 1884, the first Monday in September was recognized by the Knights, which passed a resolution announcing this official day to celebrate labor. Organized Labor began to lobby at the state level for this day to be recognized as a state holiday. In 1887, Organized Labor was finally successful in getting Labor Day recognized in several states including Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Oregon. Finally, in 1894 Organized Labor was successful in getting congress to recognize Labor Day as a National Holiday and this was a great accomplishment and tribute to the working class of people in America.
Labor Day is not a gift to working folks; it is recognition that has been earned through hard work, sweat, blood, tears and even loss of life. Had it not been for the brothers and sisters of this great country standing up for their rights at a time when serious ramifications would occur towards them, who knows where the working class people of this society would fit in today! Labor Day affords us the opportunity to voice labors opinion, speak out and shed light on issues favorable to working people that are being threatened by the very administration that is in place today; overtime pay, safety, prevailing wage, right to organize, even the right to a paycheck for work performed is threatened by those employers who would put more value on a dollar than they would a human life, which happens even today-not just a hundred years ago.
The struggle continues today as we celebrate another Labor Day. Let’s enjoy our holiday and celebrate it with our families, our brothers and sisters from within the labor movement, as well as those who share our views. Whether you install Comfort Systems, Plumbing, Pipefitting, Weld Pipe, Sprinkling a building or whatever your craft; celebrate this day in remembrance of all the sacrifice given for you, then and now! For this is truly your holiday! Have a safe and enjoyable holiday weekend!