JNR Spotlight: Labor Day

Oh no, the first Monday in September is coming – Labor Day — the end of summer.  The parties, parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks and events are sure to be fun but think about the children who have to face the back-to-school anxiety. When the kids protest, don’t tell them about “back in your day…” teach them a little American History. Let them know that Labor Day is to appreciate and celebrate the contributions and achievements of American Workers.   That, in the 1800s, children as young as 5 worked in mills, factories and mines across our country, earning little or no money at all.  The average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks just to make a very basic living.

The 18th to 19th centuries were times of great innovation and much progress.  Americans and European societies formerly immersed in agriculture and working from their homes, became industrial and urban. The iron and textile industries, along with the development of the steam engine, played central roles in the Industrial Revolution, which also saw improved systems of transportation, communication and banking. While industrialization brought about increased volumes and varieties of manufactured goods and an improved standard of living for some, people of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.

As manufacturing became the source of American employment, labor unions appeared, and grew more prominent and vocal.  They organized strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay. There were many events that turned violent during this period and people were killed.  Then, on September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day Parade in U.S. history.  Because of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with the American workers, someone first proposed the Labor Day holiday in 1882. We still don’t know if it was Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union.

The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing the holiday.  However, it wasn’t until 12 years later, on May 11, 1894, that worker’s rights were brought directly into the public’s view, when, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.

On June 26, 1894, the American Railroad Union called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the death of many workers.  Afterwards, in 1894, the labor movement created the Labor Day Holiday and then Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday.

So while we are lamenting all the fun stuff we didn’t get a chance to do this summer, let’s be thankful that our ancestors worked so hard during the Industrial Revolution to make America great so we have fun stuff to do – all year long.  Besides, summer is not really over. We’ve got weeks left until September 22, the last official day of the season. So quit worrying; Instead, go do summer things. Go to the beach, have a picnic, wear shorts, eat all the barbecue you want. Take the long Labor Day weekend off. Enjoy summer. It will be gone soon — just not now, so have fun!

Happy Labor Day!

By JNR Incorporated

Written by LuAnn Jalet, Chief Operating Officer

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JNR Incorporated is a results-based, globally recognized leader that specializes in creating custom incentive travel, meeting, event, prepaid card and merchandise programs that motivate, engage and inspire the employees, customers and channel members of our clients. We have over 30 years of experience working with Fortune 500 companies in many diverse industries. Our programs are tailored to fit the specific needs of marketing, sales, management and human resource professionals. The unique solutions we apply are measurable and proven to increase performance, loyalty and revenues.