Reflections on this Labor Day

Labor Day is traditionally the end of the summer vacation season. The kids are back in school for the long haul now. Football has resumed. The daylight hours are noticeably shorter.

Thus, most take the day as a good day off for one last picnic, one last swim, one last day out in the back yard with the family while summer’s warmth is still in the air.

But it is more.

Labor leader Samuel Gompers sums up what is celebrated today:

“All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race or nation.”

Those words by the founder of the American Federation of Labor sum up what Americans need to remember about Labor Day.

Labor built the United States of America, from the miners to the steelworkers. Labor put America on wheels, from railroad workers to autoworkers.

Labor unloads the ships filled with goods destined to our stores, and labor stocks the shelves in the stores. Labor includes those who work the high iron in skyscrapers to those who sweep the floors when the offices in the skyscraper close for the night.

Workers can sometimes feel detached, especially when politicians discuss the economy. But they want the message to be heard that what most Americans want and need is opportunity, a decent job and a chance to continue to pursue the life, liberty and happiness that continue to stand as the hallmark of the nation.

Labor Day is about all the small cities and factory and farmtowns in the nation, not Wall Street or Washington.

Labor Day was first celebrated on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City by the Central Labor Union. Its efforts spread to create a workingman’s holiday annually in other industrial cities, with Oregon passing the first state Labor Day statute. Nationally, Labor Day took root with an act of Congress in 1894.

Gompers was only partially right when he said Labor Day is less about strife than other holidays. Organized labor fought bloody battles to gain a foothold in the United States, including the battleground in Homestead, Pa., in 1892, and the Battle of the Overpass at Ford on May 26, 1937.

Veterans Day and Memorial Day are about the fight to preserve freedom.

Labor Day is about the building and preservation of a nation worth protecting.