Are We Removed From Labor Day?

industrialamerica19thcenturyfactoryconditions

I sincerely hope not. I know that in the Trades, we are not removed- we think about safety and wages every day. Today is a good day to hit "pause" and remind ourselves of when and how this holiday came about...

At some point in your school days you learned about the U. S. Industrial Revolution in the 19th century; at the very least you have read a Charles Dickens story or two which talked at length about labor conditions in 19th century Great Britain. Twelve hour (or longer) work days, terrible conditions, unsafe if not dangerous, and child labor as young as six years of age. These conditions were common.

The people working in these conditions were barely, if at all, making a living. Workers were completely at the mercy of the factory owners. There were no laws in place to protect the laborer.

Unions began to form and protests swelled:

  • September 1882 in New York City, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off, marching from City Hall to Union Square.
  • In May of 1886, the famous Haymarket Riot in Chicago left several policeman and workers dead.
  • Strikes and walkouts, including strikes that left the countries railroads standing still, took their tolls. The voices were too loud and too numerous to be ignored.
  • June 28th, 1894 President Grover Cleveland signed Labor Day into law.

There are many things we take for granted in our present day. We are so busy and so overwhelmed that we often forget to take a few minutes- just a few minutes- to say a silent "thank you". Thank you to people we will never see and never know who fought hard and risked much on our behalves.

Hit "pause" this weekend and give thanks. Happy Labor Day fellow workers.

Grant Shmelzer
Executive Director, IEC Chesapeake/IECC
#fairlaborforall

 

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