Walnut Room this way

Walnut Room this way

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Violent Beginnings of Labor Day

I went out this morning under the ever-watchful eyes of Felix and Oscar to feed them. It is a fall morning like I adore, cool, sunshine, and the last of the morning glories blooming.
All dogs fed and things quieted down for a few minutes, I was thinking about it being Labor Day, and wondering about the significance. Like any person my age, I knew it was supposed to be a recognition or "celebration of the American worker" but what was its history?

Labor Day actually began, as did many of the things we take for granted, such as the 8 hour work day and paid holidays for example, out of the labor organization movement. I knew much about labor organizing from my years of teaching social welfare policy and community organizing. For example, Francis Perkins was the first woman--and she was a social worker--to be appointed to a president's cabinet. Ms. Perkins was appointed Secretary of the Department of Labor by President Roosevelt, and her work helped achieve the 8 hour work day and prevention of child labor, among others. However, I learned some new things this morning about the violent beginnings of Labor Day--long before we could "celebrate" a day to recognize working men and women, would be a powerful resistance to the idea of workers' rights.

There is a great video on CNN in which a New York history professor discusses the labor movement, and really discloses how much current workers owe to the courage of the men and women who organized for better and safer work conditions over the years. See the story here. It is a far cry from the sanitized blurb about Labor Day on the Department of Labor's website.

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