Featured image above photo credit: http://www.ibtimes.co.in
“3-day weekend! WOOT! WOOT!”
To many, the above is what Labor Day weekend means to them: no work, just playful fun times full of celebrations and relaxation. But many of the Millenial generations and younger have no idea why they are celebrating or why they may have off of work.
The United States Department of Labor defines this time as: ‘Labor Day, the first Monday in September, 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.’ https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history
WOW! The US government did that for the workers of America!
Not so fast. The US Government conceded into making it a national holiday to end strikes of National Unions that were fighting for workers rights and safety. In fact, thousands of union workers lost life and/or limb in those strikes and fights. Employers were keen to make as much money as they could by short changing their workers who worked long and tedious hours for next to little money while the owners and managers sat fat in money at the expense of their employees health and well being. Unions also fought for 40 hours a week work schedule instead of the 60+ work week that were so common in the factories.
Upton Sinclair was a muckraker in the early 1900’s who exposed government and business corruption. THE JUNGLE is a vivid account of such actions that pushed Labor Day awareness into action.
John Steinbeck’s THE GRAPES OF WRATH is another great read showing workers struggles.
A newer book written by Kate Alcott exposes the backbreaking conditions of the Mill Girls from the mid 1900’s is THE DARING LADIES OF LOWELL.
Not everyone wants to read a book about though the above titles are engrossing. If you want to know more about this labor movement but don’t want to read, here are some great movies to watch and eat a bag popcorn while relaxing. (Of course some of these titles may be hard to come by)
‘ (1993) – A film about the AFSCME Memphis Sanitation workers strike in 1968, where Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. gave his famous “I have been to the mountaintop” speech. Dr. King was assassinated the following day. ‘*
‘(2000) – Two Latina sisters work as cleaners in a downtown office building, and fight for the right to unionize.’ *
‘ (1979) – The story of Norma Rae (played by Sally Field), a southern textile worker employed in a factory with intolerable working conditions. This film won two Oscars and is considered a classic union film. ‘ *
‘SALT OF THE EARTH’ (1954) – The story of the New Mexico zinc miners strike that was taken over by the wives of the miners when they were prohibited from picketing. Most of the film crew was black listed in Hollywood in 1954 for producing this film.’ *
‘(1983) – The story of Karen Silkwood, a metallurgy worker at a plutonium processing plant who was purposefully contaminated, psychologically tortured and possibly murdered to prevent her from exposing blatant worker safety violations at the plant. Starring Meryl Streep, Cher & Kurt Russell.’*
‘ (1979) – Real-life drama of the tragic sweatshop fire in New York as seen through the eyes of four women who worked there. ‘ *
There you have it. If you are about this weekend and go anyplace where there are people to wait on you or serve you (and there are an abundance) please be courteous, gracious and kind. Thank them and tip well (if tipping is appropriate).
What will I be doing this weekend? Working of course. The weeds and outdoor chores beckon.
Happy Labor Day weekend!
p.s. If you happen to be pregnant and in labor this weekend, bless you.Many years ago on Labor Day, I was in labor from early morning until I had my little girl in the wee hours two days later.