Monday, Sept. 3, marks an event anniversary. Like most in society it has changed emphasis, expression and interpretation since its inception.
New York machinist Matthew Mcguire organized a large picnic on Sept. 5, 1882, to honor the working person. That event became the first Labor Day.
During the following decade, communities and states across the nation intentionally paid tribute to people who toiled in multiple trades and professions with a day of honor.
By 1894, Labor Day, on the first Monday of September, become a federally recognized holiday.
During the 20th century, Labor Day, like other celebrations, started including parades and programs.
It became a national day-off when commerce was placed on hold while families and friends enjoyed, for the most part, a three-day weekend and unofficial close to the summer season.
After Labor Day, students began their school year and workers headed back to factories, fields and shops – already planning ahead to the next extended break on Thanksgiving.
In time, retail business saw Labor Day as an opportunity to capitalize on so many people being away from work.
Today, some merchants claim it has become a sale date second only to the Christmas season’s Black Friday.
Some laborers have always had to work on Labor Day.
They include medical professionals, telecommunications workers, law enforcement officers, firefighters and military personnel.
Added to those numbers are now retail and restaurant workers, factory shifts, offshore crews, transportation technicians and even many others.
What was at one time a holiday honoring the laborer has been basically transformed to a day off for white-collar upper management, while the wheels of commerce remain running with working men and women across the nation.
This year we have realized another difference. In past years workers looked forward to a day off, but those not listed among the nation’s 8.3 percent unemployed now appear increasingly grateful to be working – or at least having a place to work.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 12.8 million American adults were unemployed at the beginning of August. Among those that are working, only slightly more than half have full-time jobs.
We pay tribute to laborers on the job this holiday.
They keep all of us active. For those without gainful employment, we pray they will soon be among the working.
The expression of Labor Day may have changed during 130 years, but our intentional appreciation remains for American workers, because they continue to be the soul of our nation’s strength and freedom.