From: National Review
There isn’t much good to say about Labor Day, except maybe that it could be worse — it could be on May 1, which would make it a full-on Communist holiday instead of a merely crypto-Communist one. For that we can thank Grover Cleveland, the last pretty-good Democrat (seriously: gold standard, anti-tariff, vetoed twice as many bills as all of his predecessors combined — Rand Paul is a fan), who pushed for the creation of a labor festival in September as cultural competition to the international workers’ celebration in May, sort of the reverse of the strategy of the early Church fathers’ choosing the dates of heathen festivals for the new Christian holidays.
So, from the two out of three working-age Americans who are gainfully employed, a round of applause for President Cleveland. But crypto-Communist holidays are not so great, either.
Labor Day, like Obamacare and much else that is distasteful about American public life today, is a product of American liberals’ desire to be Canadians. The ’Nucks started celebrating labor on the first Monday in September in the 1880s; this holiday grew out of a parade celebrating a typographical workers’ strike in 1872. Soon, U.S. labor bosses, especially the Marxist Central Labor Union, wanted a holiday of their own.
If there is anything we learned from the 20th century, it is that Communists love a parade. President Cleveland, feeling a bit of political pressure after having dispatched Brigadier General Nelson Miles to crush the Pullman strike and chucking Eugene Debs in the hoosegow, calculated that an end-of-summer barbecue for the riffraff might be just the tonic for his ailing administration.
(Small ideological world: The Central Labor Union’s political arm was the United Labor Party, which in 1886 ran as its candidate for mayor of New York the political economist Henry George, whose eccentric plan for a single tax on the value of unimproved land was much admired by the Conservative party’s candidate for mayor of New York in 1965, William F. Buckley Jr.)
The Canadian typographical workers had been demanding a 58-hour work week and the repeal of anti-union laws. Parliament obliged, and of course the unions’ immediate response was to press for a 54-hour work week, and then a still shorter one, and so on, until everybody was French.
The French 35-hour work week is the current object of envy among our naïve Europhiles, and it has been an object of curiosity among economists: Contrary to their indolent reputation, French workers are, on paper, among the world’s most productive, outperforming U.S. workers on a GDP-per-work-hour basis.
There are many possible explanations for that, the most likely of which is lying. It is probable that French people work more hours than they claim and Americans less, with work spilling over the borders of those official 35-hour French weeks and Internet-fueled leisure time infiltrating American weeks. Research suggests that in reality the French put in more hours than the Germans, though rather less than 19th-century Canadian typographers.