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Monday, September 5, 2016

The "Labor Day Report" Story

It was an ordinary day.  Labor Day 2016 and I am once again reminded of the time when I was a member of a union which helped me obtain wages that were more than double what my friends who were working were making.  For almost four years, during high school and college, I worked part-time at the Acme Supermarket, first running a cash register then "graduating" to stocking shelves and working in the produce section of the store.  That was when running a cash register required math skills that, my guess is, most students in high school today don't possess.  Still remember that when someone bought a can of Campbell's soup, that was 3 for $.49, I rang up $.17.  Didn't have to look it up on my phone.  I knew math inside and out as did all the people who ran cash registers at the store.  Well, throughout those years I had to pay union dues once a month. When I stopped working at the grocery store I was making $2.19 an hour while some of my friends were getting paid $1.00 an hour pumping gas.  I did have to pay $15.00 a month for having my union negotiate that wage for me, but I was making more as a part-time worker than many who were working full-time at other jobs.  Unions are bashed constantly for being corrupt, and I guess that may be true from time to time, but I was able to pay for my college tuition and books, car expenses and insurance and still have some left over to take my girlfriend to the movies because of my union.  Yesterday I wrote a story about Armstrong Cork Company and the fantastic benefits that the employees received which included having a shop committee that would communicate with management for wages.  More than likely that was the start of unions as we know them in Lancaster, PA.  Today we celebrate all workers, both union and non-union and the economic achievements of the American workers.  Labor Day constitutes a yearly nation tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.  
More than 100 years after our first Labor Day celebra- tion, there is still doubt as to who was responsible for the holiday.  Some say it was Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor while others say it was Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who was the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J. who proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.  It was Peter McGuire who joined with his friend Samuel Gompers to found the American Federation of Labor (AFL) which were responsible for the adoption of the eight-hour workday.  But wait, it was Matthew Maguire who led strikes intended to force the plight of manufacturing workers and their long hours into the public eye. He is said to be the father of Labor Day.  It was said that Maguire held some political beliefs that were considered fairly radical for the day as did Gompers so Gompers friend Peter McGuire was assigned the credit for the creation of Labor Day based on Canada's labour festival held in Toronto.  
1st Labor Day Parade in New York City.
The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City when 10,000 disgruntled workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square, thus holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. 
In 1884 the holiday was moved to the first Monday in September.  Soon other areas of the country were also celebrating the holiday.  Then, the Sunday before Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.  The first state to pass a law naming Labor Day a holiday was Oregon in 1887. Others quickly follow and today all states honor our workers on the first Monday in September. Today Canada also celebrates Labour Day on the same date that we do while European Countries have various other days to celebrate. So, today we will celebrate all our workers and their dedication to making the USA the greatest nation on earth.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.


  1. "Still remember that when someone bought a can of Campbell's soup, that was 3 for $.49, I rang up $.17." Maybe you should have used your phone.

  2. Woody Guthrie "You can't get me, I'm part of the Union".