by: the Common Constitutionalist
Happy Labor Day all. I trust everyone is enjoying their long weekend. Here in New England Labor Day marks the official end to summer, fall unofficially begins, lasts about a week and a half and I go into hibernation until spring. Every year about this time I wish for global warming.
Labor Day for many is about family gatherings, cookouts, parades and fireworks. I enjoy all these but I personally give no acknowledgment to the “holiday” for Labor Day is a celebration of the “workers”. And not just any workers; union workers. Let’s just say I’m not a fan of unions, particularly public-sector unions.
But isn’t Labor Day a celebration of all workers? Maybe now, but it didn’t start out that way.
Most believe that like Independence Day, Labor Day is uniquely American.
It actually came about as a result of an 1872 strike by the Toronto Typographical Union. The strike was a protest of the long hours they had to work. They called it the “Nine Hour Movement” after the demand to decrease hours worked from 12 per day to 9 per day.
What those Canadian union strikers may not have realized was that striking was illegal, a criminal offense, thanks to a little-known law passed in 1792.
Consequently 24 members of the strike organizing committee were thrown in the slammer and many unionize workers were simply replaced by the employers. The employers brought in nonunion labor from nearby towns.
Prime Minister John McDonald was not too pleased by these employers’ actions and push through the “Trade Union Act” legalizing the union’s action.
Some accounts are that Peter McGuire, the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners was witness to one of the Canadian Labor Day celebrations.
He went back to New York and proposed an American Labor Day; the first on September 5, 1882, yet it didn’t become a holiday until 1894.
The holiday was brought about by the great Pullman strike of 1894. Pullman manufactured train cars in the Chicago area. This strike caused railroad shutdowns all over the country. President Grover Cleveland sent troops and marshals to end the strike. The result was 30 strikers dead and 57 wounded.
It was this that caused Congress to propose and ratifiy the national holiday not even a week after President Cleveland ended the strike.
Oh, and in the “some things never change category”, the Pullman strike was organized by a union boss, Democrat hack and avowed socialist, Eugene Debs.
Happy Labor Day.