Is it Happy Labor Day? Merry Labor Day? It just doesn’t seem to have the uumph of the other holidays. When you walk into a store you don’t see the Labor Day display of greeting cards like the reds/pinks of V-Day or the ghosts, jack-o-lanterns, and black cats of Halloween. In fact, I’ve never received or even seen a Labor Day card and I’ve never heard anyone say “I got your Labor Day card. It was nice.” Is Hallmark missing the boat?
In the US, Labor Day is always the first Monday in September (May 1st ‘May Day’ in socialist and communist countries) and was created to support the ‘social and economic achievements of American workers.’ Some say that Peter McGuire, the former leader of the Brotherhood of Carpenters was the founder of this non-greeting card giving holiday. Others say it was Matthew McGuire, a machinist and member of the machinist union was the founder. Talk about sibling rivalry!
The first Labor Day took place in 1882 in NYC at the request of the Central Labor Union. The first legislation and governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances in 1885 and 1886. Oregon was the first state to pass legislation in 1887 but ironically the first state bill was introduced in NY much earlier; it seems that even back then NY had trouble getting bills passed.
Labor Day has lost its original purpose as I think most holidays have. Today, it’s more about a day away from the office and an opportunity to consume large amounts of nitrates (hotdogs) or go camping in the woods somewhere (where inevitably nitrates will be consumed). It also provides 24 more hours to start the seasonal closing process of swimming pools.
As we celebrate “the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country”, I urge you pull out the construction paper and markers and create a Labor Day greeting card. It’s sure to make someone smile….or laugh hysterically.
I leave you with Bonne Labor Day! Oh, and take it easy on the nitrates.