Our View: Labor Day, a backwards glance

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This weekend we enter what many view as the final weekend of summer, also known as Labor Day weekend, which preludes Monday, Sept. 3. Unlike most U.S. holidays, Labor Day is a celebration without set rituals, unless it is shopping for those “Labor Day deals,” barbecuing with friends and family or enjoying a final warm weekend at the lake or the river.

Originally, the first Labor Day occurred in 1882 in New York City under the direction of that city’s Central Labor Union. In the 1800s, unions covered only a small fraction of workers and were relatively weak at the time. The goal of organizations was to bring many small unions together to create an event that brought different types of workers together to meet each other and recognize their common interests.

However, no government or company recognized the first Monday in September as a day off work. The issue was solved temporarily by declaring a one-day strike in the city. All striking workers were expected to march in a parade and then eat and drink at a giant picnic afterwards.

While the first Labor Day was created by striking, the idea of a special holiday for workers was easy for politicians to support later. In 1887, Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, New York and New Jersey all declared a special legal holiday in September to celebrate workers.

Within 12 years, half the states in the country recognized Labor Day as a holiday. It became a national holiday in June 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed the Labor Day bill into law. While most people interpreted this as recognizing the day as a national vacation, Congress’ proclamation covers only federal employees. It is up to each state to declare its own legal holidays.

Many stores are open on Labor Day. Essential government services in protection and transportation continue to function, and even less essential programs like national parks are open. Because not everyone is given time off on Labor Day, union workers as recent as the 1930s were being urged to stage one-day strikes if their employer refused to give them the day off.

Today, Labor Day is no longer about trade unionists marching down the street with banners and their tools of trade. Instead, it is a holiday with very little associated rituals other than rest and relaxation as summer comes to its close.

So we suggest, you make this Labor Day just that. Turn off the phone, the computer and other “tethers to stress.” The Folsom area has plenty to offer in the way of outdoor recreation in the water, near the water and around the water. Our region also has an abundance of retailers that offer great bargains on this day if that suits your fancy. Get out of the house and celebrate the day, in your community.

-The Folsom Telegraph