Matthew Maguire

We Work Hard For The Money So Celebrate It.

/////

We all need money to live and how do we obtain it? We work, of course. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who haven’t complained about their job for one reason or another. They work too many hours, don’t get paid enough, don’t get enough vacation time, or maybe they didn’t get the promotion they felt they deserved. Just like the Dolly Parton song “9 to 5” when she sings “Want to move ahead but the boss won’t seem to let me.” If we think we’ve got it bad now just look at what it was like years ago.

1800s Factory Workers | Photo by Thinklink

All we have to do is look back in history to the late 1800s to see how terrible the working conditions were. Most people worked 12-hour days for 7-days-a-week and for not much money. This was also before child labor laws were enacted so many children, as young as 6-years of age, were working in sweat shops instead of going to school. We may whine about our working conditions but according to History.com “People of all ages, particularly the poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.”

The Father’s Of Labor Day Matthew Maguire & Peter McGuire | image by 401kmaneuver.com

Trade unions began to take shape as the labor movement in the U.S. grew stronger. Here is where we first hear of an effort to have a holiday to celebrate labor. There seems to be a bit of a controversy over who actually came up with the idea first. In September of 1882 the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor met in New York City and a parade was held on September 5th under the auspices of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York to celebrate laborers. Matthew Maguire, the CLU Secretary proposed a national Labor Day holiday to be held on the first Monday in September.

Peter J. McGuire, A.F.L VP | Image by blogs.log.gov

However, there is another version of this story that says Peter J. McGuire, a vice president of the American Federation of Labor, proposed the Labor Day holiday idea in the spring of 1882. He said he proposed the holiday on May 8,1882 to the Central Labor Union in New York City stating that a day should be set aside for a “general holiday for the laboring classes.”

I’ll bet you didn’t know this fact that Oregon was the first state in the union to make Labor Day an official public holiday. I know I never heard that fact.

President Grover Cleveland | quotesgram.com

The U.S. Congress passed a bill making the first Monday in September as Labor Day a national holiday and on June 28,1894 President Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law making it official.

In modern times the long Labor Day Holiday weekend has turned into a time for friends and family to gather together for picnics, swimming, boating as a final celebration of the unofficial end of summer. The COVID-19 pandemic caused a serious break from that tradition in 2020 and with the Delta Variant of the virus many plans for this year’s Labor Day celebrations have been scaled back and in many areas outright cancelled as the pandemic rages on.

If we can get most of our population vaccinated and keep up the protocols for a while longer we just might be able to see our lives and celebrations return to a somewhat normal condition. If not, we are in for a very long and deadly Fall and Winter.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].

It’s Not Just An Excuse To Have A Long Weekend.

/////

Here we are at the beginning of September. The long Labor Day Holiday weekend has for many years been considered the end of summer celebration, the return of students to school, and a celebration of the hard work of all employees. We often forget the real meaning of Labor Day when we get wrapped up in picnics, back-to-school sales, and the realization that summer has just about had it.

Labor Day | Image by thepopkavoice.com

How did this celebration of labor get started? We have all heard stories of sweatshops that exist even today with laws against them. During the industrial revolution workers were needed, but they weren’t always treated fairly. The average American in the late 1880s worked 12-hour days, usually 7-days a week and there were not many restrictions on the employers. Child labor laws were were only in effect in some states and not always enforced. Children as young as six-years-old were working for much less than than there adult counterparts with not much recourse. Workers began to push for better working conditions which led to strikes. Demonstrations in front of the workplace often led to violence between the workers and employers and the police had to get involved.

Haymarket Riot Of 1886 | Image by allthatsinteresting.com

The one event that was the spark that ignited the worker’s movement was the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, Illinois. According to History.com “On May 4, 1886, a labor protest rally near Chicago’s Haymarket Square turned into a riot when someone threw a bomb at police. At least eight people died, including police officers, as a result of the violence that day. Despite a lack of evidence against them, eight radical labor activists were convicted in connection with the bombing. The riot seriously hurt the labor movement. The efforts for an eight hour work day and better working conditions blew up with that bomb.

The first Labor Day parade took place on September 5, 1882 in New York City when some 10,000 workers took time off from work to march from City Hall to Union Square. Many states celebrated the first Monday in September as a workingman’s holiday, but Congress didn’t enact legislation to make it official until some twelve years later.

Eugene V. Debs | Photo by truthdx.com

Employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago in 1894 went on strike because of the firing of a union representative and wage cuts that management had made. A little more than a month later Eugene V. Debs leader of the American Railroad union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars. Serious damage was done to railroad traffic and government troops were sent in which caused many riots to break out. More than a dozen workers died in those riots.

American Federation Of Labor | History.com

Grover Cleveland | history.com

Congress passed legislation making Labor Day a national holiday and President Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law June 28, 1894. There is still some dispute over who actually was the first to suggest a holiday for workers called  Labor Day.

Matthew Maguire & Peter McGuire

After all of these years the debate goes on. One side supports Peter J. McGuire who was co-founder of the American Federation of Labor for suggesting it and the other side says it was Matthew Maguire, Secretary of the Central Labor Union who first proposed the holiday. You’ll notice that Labor Day is not celebrated on September 5th as originally proposed. That’s because the Uniform Monday Holiday Act was signed into law June 28, 1968 making sure that Washington’s Birthday, Memorial Day, Columbus Day, and Labor Day would always be celebrated on Mondays producing a 3-day weekend.

American Federation Of Labor | History.com

There you have it. Rather than actually celebrating workers most Americans simply enjoy an extra day off to spend with family and friends by having picnics, going boating, swimming, and other enjoyable activities. Maybe we should all take a moment to thank those who worked so hard all those years ago to give us the benefits that come with the jobs we have now.

Let me know what you would like me to talk about or explain. You can comment below or email me at: [email protected].