Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

So where did Labor Day come from? You might just know it as a long weekend – the last big hurrah of summer. But there is much more….

In 1893 the nation faced an economic depression. The Pullman Company (railroads), who owned the entire town of Pullman, IL, cut wages and laid off workers, but did not cut rents, which caused a lot of problems for the common man. So the employees struck, backed by Eugene V. Debs’ American Railway Union. The strike became a national issue and President Grover Cleveland declared the strike a federal crime and sent troops against the workers to end it. Two men were killed, but by August 3, 1894, the strike was considered over. Debs was sent to prison, the union was destroyed, and the workers had had to pledge to never strike again. This was obviously NOT a good day for labor.

Before this strike, there had been public support of a national holiday for workers growing throughout the country. After President Cleveland’s harsh treatment of the Pullman strikers, there was a lot of negative backlash from the masses. So legislation for a national holiday was rushed through Congress and was on President Cleveland’s desk only six days after the Pullman Strike was broken. Since 1894 was an election year, Cleveland signed the bill in hopes of reelection (he wasn’t).

So where did Labor Day come from? It was an appeasement policy of the Cleveland administration to whitewash a nasty railroad strike.

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