Its the middle of September now and time allows me to reflect a little over the last few weeks. Mirrored in these days a triad of events occurred. The end of summer means many things to many of us. The start of school. Changes to mine and my family's schedule with meals and activities between business travel of my husbands and soccer practises. It begins to blow the gentle breeze of summer into an Autumn gale, as we battle our schedules racing to beat the turn of seasons. All the while we wish it not so hot, yet we dread the dismal days of winter weather ahead.
Labor day weekend is traditionally the unofficial end of summer. The Labor Day holiday founded to celebrate the working Joe, but lends itself to family festivities and civic celebrations. So, we all try to fit in last minute trips or stretch any vacation time left over. It is family picnics and barbecues. The boys of summer run against borrowed time before baseball playoffs begin. It becomes shopping for fall and school wardrobes which fashion our weekend. While all this is wrapped up into Labor Day, there is something lost behind the scenes meant for us to remember. Reflecting on the Labor Day past should shine more light upon our present.
First observed in Oregon 1887, Labor day did not become noticed as a federal holiday until 1894. Note the time line mentioned here because the average working Joe likely worked at least a twelve hour day for six days a week and sometimes seven. Many people did not get the kind of time off as our modern workforce experiences. The catalyst that leads to the national celebration came about because of labor union formation and the Pullman Strike during that time. Pullman workers built and maintained railroad cars for Pullman company owned by George Pullman. Perhaps a long forgotten fact that we now take for granted played an important part in how we work and live now.
During this strike, the Pullman fought for their rights of fairness lost at the hands of their boss. George Pullman pulled the rug out from the workers' feet by laying them off or cutting their wages without any consideration toward cost of living. Unlike today's employee, the Pullman workers lived in Pullman company communities. Numbers of workers covering twenty-nine railroads counting upwards of 125,000 walked off their jobs in protest. Picket lines and riots raged holding up movement on the tracks. Back in the day, the railroad was responsible for freight, transportation, and delivery of mail across the country. This meant that money contributed much of the need for timely action but it was also a matter of public safety that the president played his cards the way he did. This crucial act faced off the management, workers, and the government. The United States Marshals and Armed Forces steps to regain control caused an unwanted catastrophe, when riotous workers and authorities clashed. Thirty people dead, over fifty wounded, and union organizers imprisoned catapulted President Cleveland's decision for celebrating Labor day as a national holiday.
So when the next summer breeze blows into an autumn gale, slow down your battle against the seasons. Take the time to remember the average working Joe. After all you and those before you labor to make life better for yourselves, loved ones, and future workers. Enjoy the unofficial end of summer with celebrations and civic festivities. Feast at your picnic and barbecue while watching the boys of summer bat their way to the playoffs. Breeze through back to school sales with excitement of new things to come. Like the Pullman workers, you can make a difference just by remembering they struck for the average working Joe. Most of all, don't forget to reflect because the today usually mirrors the past in some way. Stand up for every one's right to fairness and recognize that today's actions always mean tomorrow's results.