Monday, September 5, 2011

What Labor Day Means

According to the website of the US Department of Labor, Labor Day
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.
The holiday was created by labor union organizers, and was first celebrated on September 5, 1882 under the direction of the Central Labor Union in New York City. In 1887 Oregon became the first state to officially recognize the Labor Day holiday; The United States Congress officially recognizing the observance of Labor Day in 1894.

Considering the role that labor unions played in the establishment and history of Labor Day, it is ironic that this holiday is still observed in a country that has become an increasingly hostile environment for organized labor. When we see conservative politicians such as Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin advancing their careers through union-busting, denying public workers of benefits that have been earned through years of labor, all to satisfy the greed of their corporate crony benefactors. When "right to work" has become a cynical code word for "anti-organized labor," when the Republicans' answer to rising unemployment and underemployment is to insist on ever deeper slashes to safety net programs and ever lower taxes paid by the wealthy. It's not surprising that the true meaning of Labor Day has been all but lost, and the holiday has become just another excuse to take a day off from work... at least for those who have a job to take a day off from.

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