Labor Day: More than just a BBQ
Contributed by Kris Baydalla-Galasso
Labor Day: it is that first Monday in September that marks the unofficial end of summer. Families everywhere look to take one last jaunt to the beach and for those who aren’t traveling, it is a reason to gather friends for one last BBQ. While we look at it as a date for one last summer party (and the very last day for the fashion-conscious to wear white shoes…), Labor Day is rooted in the opposite atmosphere of the jovial parties we celebrate today.
Back on September 5, 1882, over 10,000 NYC workers took to the streets and marched from City Hall to Union Square. This unofficial “parade” was to honor all of the US workers who, at the time, were working in some harsh conditions for long hours. In fact, it was during this time that the USA saw the birth of labor unions; organizations created to help protect the American worker. It was a common occurrence to see children as young as five on the factory floor, and something needed to be done.
The work conditions were deplorable. Working 12-shifts was commonplace. Factory conditions were often unsafe for the workers who ran it. Workers were severely underpaid, which led to families sending their young children to the factory floor to work and earn wages to help support the family at home. The deplorable conditions led to anger and resentment. Sporadic and unreasonable hiring and firing practices led to emotionally-fueled uprisings and violence – both inside and out of the factories.
While the creation of labor unions helped to alleviate the terrible conditions that inspired the violence, workers still felt the need for more. Those 10,000-20,000 workers in NYC took unpaid time off on 9/5/1882 to joyfully march to honor the American worker. The parade, filled with music, laughter, flags and badges ended with a picnic that drew even more people. This peaceful protest was a bright spot and caught the attention of legislators and workers alike.By 1885, several states had considered legislation for an official “labor day.” In 1894, Congress made the first Monday in September a legal, national holiday.
So while you raise a glass and take a bite of your burger, take a moment to remember all of the hard working Americans who helped shaped the industry in our great county.