Support the Café

Search our Site

The hard fought roots of Labor Day

The hard fought roots of Labor Day

While by now, Labor Day marks the effective end of summer, and the last hurrah of BBQ season, an article in the Huffington Post reminds us today that its roots run far deeper, and sadder than that.

The Labor Day holiday was instituted by Congress in June of 1894, in the midst of the Pullman Railway strike, in order to appease the striking workers. A federal holiday had been a longtime demand of organized labor in the US. The holiday, however, didn’t end the strike, and within a month, Grover Cleveland sent federal troops to break the standoff, resulting in dozens of deaths.

In light of this history, it’s worth considering today where labor rights in the US stand currently, and it’s not all spectacular a picture. Union membership has dropped precipitously in the past few decades. Though, John Nichols of The Nation points out,

There was a time, within the living memory of millions of Americans, when this country championed democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and the right to organize in the same breath….For generations, Americans accepted the basic premise that labor rights are human rights. When this country counseled other countries on how to forge civil and democratic societies, Americans explained that the right to organize a trade union—and to have that trade union engage in collective bargaining as an equal partner with corporations and government agencies—had to be protected./blockquote>

So over the last glimpse of summer, over hamburgers and hot dogs, might it be time to renew the idea of labor rights as human rights as well?


Café Comments?

Our comment policy requires that you use your real first and last names and provide an email address (your email will not be published). Comments that use non-PG rated language, include personal attacks, that are not provable as fact or that we deem in any way to be counter to our mission of fostering respectful dialogue will not be posted.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Rod Gillis

Here is a link to a detailed article from the Business section of the T.O. Star, noting among other things, the historical connection with events in 1872. Some of the labor actors were active on both sides of the border.

Ted Copland

Article has history wrong. May 1 1886 preceding the Haymarket Affair was the deadline goal for an 8 hr work day. President and Congress, fearing the labor movement’s fondness for May 1 moved to have Labor Day in Sept. In some countries May 1 commemorates “The Martyrs of Chicago.”

Rod Gillis

Labor day observances and protests by working people in both the U.S. and Canada precede the Labor Day Holiday enacted by governments in both countries in the late 19th century. The North American holiday has a counter part in the May 1st European holiday. The Canadian BCP provides for the use of Autumn Ember Day propers for Labor Day.

The (traditional collect) reads:

“O Lord Jesus Christ, who in thy earthly life didst share man’s [sic] toil, and thereby hallow the labour of his hands; Prosper all those who maintain the industries of this land;and give them pride in their work, a just reward for their labour, and both joy in supplying the needs of others and in serving thee our Saviour; who with thee etc.”

The collect is a sappy reflection of the Church as an agent of conformity. Interesting that this is re-enforced by the rather unfortunate choice of 2 Thess. 3:6 ff as the Epistle the collect is paired with.

A contrast is provided in occasional collect 14, found in the B.A.S. For The Oppressed of This Land:

Look with Pity, O Heavenly Father, upon those in this land who live with injustice, terror, disease, and death as their constant companions. Have mercy upon us and help us eliminate cruelty wherever it is found. Strengthen those who seek equality for all. Grant that everyone of us may enjoy a fair portion of the abundance of this land. Etc.

Likely, Labor Day is passed over in the churches.

Support the Café
Past Posts

The Episcopal Café seeks to be an independent voice, reporting and reflecting on the Episcopal Church and the Anglican tradition.  The Café is not a platform of advocacy, but it does aim to tell the story of the church from the perspective of Progressive Christianity.  Our collective sympathy, as the Café, lies with the project of widening the circle of inclusion within the church and empowering all the baptized for the role to which they have been called as followers of Christ.

The opinions expressed at the Café are those of individual contributors, and, unless otherwise noted, should not be interpreted as official statements of a parish, diocese or other organization. The art and articles that appear here remain the property of their creators.

All Content  © 2017 Episcopal Café