Labor Day is supposed to be an annual celebration of the working class. During the late part of 19th century, it was conceived as recognition of the social and economic achievements of the American working class. The original meaning of Labor Day points to workers as the main part of the American economic system.
Labor Day originated at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. As manufacturing companies grew, workers began to organize labor unions which became their means to voice their discontent about poor work conditions. Unfortunately, many of these negotiations turned violent.
On May 11, 1894, President Grover Cleveland sent enforcement officials to confront an American Railway Union strike at Pullman Company in Chicago, Il. Several people died during that protest. As a result, President Cleveland signed a law designating the first Monday of September as a holiday to repair the embarrassing political situation, and to respond to the requests of the working class, who demanded better social and economic conditions.
Eventually, there was a shift in the perspective of Labor Day.
The gloomy and deadly circumstances in which Labor Day was conceived was turned into parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other cheerful manifestations.
We need to reconsider the way we see our social and economic circumstances. We still need to build a better economic system that benefits everyone; a system that does not enrich the wealthiest Americans more while other members of society struggle to make a living.
That is why it is important to remember the original meaning of Labor Day.
Millions of Americans are hoping that elected officials will stop playing politics and focus on the general economic and social well-being of our nation.
The actual achievements of the working class are diminishing. America, as a nation, is the first economic power in the world. However, the gap between rich and poor increases and it is getting harder to see the achievements of the people who constitute the working class.
Commonly, we see the achievements of big companies and corporations through the media; their innovative products, profits, big leaders’ lifestyle and their impact on society. In contrast, the media shows the working class as weak, poorly educated and in constant pain.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, about 12 million Americans are unemployed, which means the national unemployment rate is 7.4 percent.
Many people are losing their jobs, homes and hopes for a general well-being. Income, health insurance, education and retirement security are constant concerns for most American workers.
Our nation’s top priority should be to expand economic equality and better living conditions.
Labor Day should constitute a permanent recognition of the contributions that all American workers have made to the prosperity and well-being of our country.
They are the vital force of labor that enhances the ideals of political and economic democracy.
Although Labor Day is faithfully celebrated, it is more important to look at what has been achieved through the hard work of men and women – a strong nation with great ideals based on democracy, freedom and prosperity. The original meaning of Labor Day was not to celebrate cheerful festivities but to celebrate workers as they continue to be the backbone of the American economic system.