Reflections and Suggestions on Labor Day Weekend

Posted 09.04.2009

Labordayparade1 What are you doing to celebrate Labor Day? Like so many three day weekends in the U.S., the original point of Labor Day has sort of gotten lost in the shuffle. (President’s Day mattress sale anyone?) I spent a little time this morning looking up the history of Labor Day and found this on

“On May 11, 1894, workers of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago struck to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives. They sought support from their union led by Eugene V. Debs and on June 26 the American Railroad Union called a boycott of all Pullman railway cars. Within days, 50,000 rail workers complied and railroad traffic out of Chicago came to a halt. On July 4, President Grover Cleveland dispatched troops to Chicago. Much rioting and bloodshed ensued, but the government's actions broke the strike and the boycott soon collapsed. Debs and three other union officials were jailed for disobeying the injunction. The strike brought worker's rights to the public eye and Congress declared, in 1894, that the first Monday in September would be the holiday for workers, known as Labor Day.”

A couple of things strike me about that story. One is how much history we overlook in our focus on the now. We forget where we’ve come from. The other is that people shouting at health care town halls, however rude their behavior is, is a long way from sending the Army in to break up a strike. A little historical perspective can be helpful in evaluating what’s going on today. The cable news culture can make history seem like whatever was caught on video tape a few hours ago. That doesn’t exactly encourage thoughtful reflection or dialogue.

But, I digress. Back to the opening question – what are you doing to celebrate Labor Day?  Here are some suggestions:

  1. Thank Your Co-Workers:  Before you leave work today, thank some co-workers for what they do.  Tell them what you appreciate about their contribution and why it matters.  They’ll appreciate it and you’ll feel better having done so.
  2. Go to a Parade:  If there’s a Labor Day parade in your community, go watch it.  It will reconnect you with our country’s history and your own.
  3. Unplug:  Spend some time with friends and family having fun.  Go for a walk.  Watch some baseball or football.  Declare Monday an e-mail free zone.   The day after Labor Day represents the start of the sprint to the end of the year.  Take the time to recharge your batteries for the next leg.