I recently enjoyed attending the Annual Labor Day Celebration in Headwaters Park organized by the Northeast Indiana Central Labor Council. The weather was beautiful, and it seemed like thousands were there. I saw people I knew and people I didn’t know but enjoyed talking with. There were folks there in all walks of life: people with fine homes and homeless people; those with great jobs and those who were unemployed, veterans and civilians, men and women, boys and girls—all coming together to celebrate the American worker. I enjoyed fellowship with a dear friend and great American politician, Winfield Moses whom I hadn’t seen in a while. Everyone there seemed to be having a wonderful time enjoying the free food, drink and entertainment.
The Journal Gazette reported on the following day “…put aside the complimentary lunch, what keeps folks like Joyce Graham-Coats coming back year after year is the people.” She continued, “You see people you haven’t seen all year.” Joyce, also a dear friend of mine, pretty much sums it up for me! It’s the camaraderie that makes this event so special.
This time of year brings many things to mind, not only fun parties and cookouts but the end of summer and the start of school, labor day sales and the beginning of football season, the big Muscular Dystrophy Association telethon, and the putting away of my white shoes till next summer. Labor Day reminds me to think about employment issues—those things people have fought for that were accomplished and those things yet to be accomplished: higher wages and the eight-hour workday, child labor laws, re-employment rights and preference for veterans, workplace safety and health, workers’ compensation and other benefits, attention to migrant and seasonal agricultural workers’ issues, miners’ safety and health, family and medical leave. I think, too, about the effects on the people of the laws about work, like the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the 2012 Indiana Right to Work law.
Labor Day is a holiday celebrated in the U.S. on the first Monday in September. It began as a celebration of the labor movement, and it served as a tribute to the achievements our workers bring to our nation and to society. For many years, Labor Day was viewed by workers as a day to celebrate their accomplishments and a day to air their grievances and discuss strategies for securing better working conditions and salaries. In recent times it seems to be associated more with leisure activities and a day off of work, so maybe it’s good to look back at how it started. On September 5, 1882, workers assembled in New York City to participate in a Labor Day parade, and then a picnic in the park. Municipal ordinances were passed during 1885 and 1886 to recognize Labor Day.
Oregon passed legislation on February 21, 1887, creating the Labor Day holiday. When it became a federal holiday in 1894 thirty states were celebrating Labor Day. Now it’s a statutory holiday in all the states, the territories and the District of Columbia. Other countries including Australia, Bahamas, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, and Trinidad celebrate a Labor Day or International Workers Day. In most countries there’s a street parade celebrating the strength and spirit of trade and labor unions followed by parties for workers and their families.
For some, Labor Day is a simple cookout at home with family and friends. For others it’s a highly decorated, formal event for a wide circle of individuals and families. I saw one website that sold Labor Day “supplies” like printable invitations, party favors, prizes and gifts. There were menus and recipes, printable buffet table food labels, kids’ activities and other games, a choice of patriotic themes and colors, and even a link to a Labor Day florist!
I’d like to say “Thank You” to the American worker. Our labor force has helped this country to have one of the highest standards of living in the world. I believe it is appropriate that we pay tribute to the American worker on Labor Day.
Richard A. Stevenson, Sr.
Wayne Township Trustee