By Ellen Leventhal
Labor Day. People are lining up for sales, barbecue grills are going full blast, and some of us are putting the white shorts away until next Memorial Day.
But what is Labor Day really? It wasn’t meant to be an end of summer celebration, and it wasn’t meant to signal the start of school or football season. Labor Day is a day set aside to honor the American labor force. If you don’t know about the divisive Pullman Car Strike, you may want to take time this Labor Day to read about it. In 1894 President Grover Cleveland initiated the holiday as part of the federal response to that strike. But even so, a lot more work needed to be done in order to secure living wages and safe workplaces for American workers. Do you recall learning about the 1911 fire at the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory? Again, if you are not familiar with it, Labor Day is a great time to learn about it and the Labor Unions which had a huge impact on workplace safety.
The Labor and Working-class History Association put out this list of what they feel are good books about labor. Take a look and see what you think.
So yes, we can take this day to relax. We can enjoy our friends and family, and we can hit the snooze button a few times.But let’s always remember the meaning behind Labor Day and be thankful to the workers who make our lives what they are.
I HEAR AMERICA SINGING
~ Walt Whitman
I hear America singing, the varied carols I hear,
Those of mechanics, each one singing his as it should be blithe and strong,
The carpenter singing his as he measures his plank or beam,
The mason singing his as he makes ready for work, or leaves off work,
The boatman singing what belongs to him in his boat, the deckhand singing on the steamboat deck,
The shoemaker singing as he sits on his bench, the hatter singing as he stands,
The woodcutter’s song, the ploughboy’s on his way in the morning, or at noon intermission or at sundown,
The delicious singing of the mother, or of the young wife at work, or of the girl sewing or washing,
Each singing what belongs to him or her and to none else,
The day what belongs to the day-at night the party of young fellows, robust, friendly,
Singing with open mouths their strong melodious songs.