Why do we have “Labor Day”?
According to the Department of Labor:
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
I took on the task to write about Labor Day because I think it is a worthy holiday. It’s important to me personally, because I’ve spent decades actually laboring. After getting a B.A. from the University of Iowa, I returned to the construction industry as it was what I knew.
I grew up an Iowa farm kid. Farm kids learn how to shovel crap, quite literally. They also work in poor conditions for low pay, but surprisingly, it is an awesome way to grow up. My Dad also ran a travelling construction crew. He spent his time in towns all across Minnesota and Iowa building stadium bleacher seating of various kinds.
My summers were filled with living out of cheap hotels and working with rough men. The men who labored on my dad’s crews used the “F” word more than any other. Few had driver’s licenses and most had pasts they were happy to hide from. It was an eye opening experience for a teen boy looking to be a man. Nothing politically correct or effeminate about it. I spent my evenings in Honky Tonks, Biker Bars, and places we can’t talk about in decent company. I grew an appreciation for the working man and I became one. I understood vulgar language and too much beer better not keep you from being ready to work at the break of dawn, especially if your dad is the boss.
Then in my 20’s I married, started a family, and became a Tile Setter. A tradesman. I spent the next 20 years literally, on my knees, installing kitchen floors and bathroom showers. In that time, I wrote several novels, ran for political office, began writing political commentary mixed with satire and cutting edge wit. My construction career evolved into General Contracting houses and eventually into Real Estate sales. My writing career took off in a parallel course. I wrote monologues for radio. I ghostwrote political pieces for famous people. I wrote speeches for entrepreneur’s and politicians. My pieces have been published in most conservative-leaning major publications all around the country. Some with my name on top, some not.
Before I became the Senior Editor at Daily Surge many writing gigs were nothing more than contract work, just like when I was a full time Tile Setter. I was trading my blue collar contracting for a white collar. Now I get to encourage other writers to soar to new heights and work to ensure we have one of the most original and exciting sites on the web. It’s very rewarding, but no matter how much I trade a tile saw for a keyboard, my heart will always be full of a heavy dose of working class love.
I learned pride in a job well done from those days on my knees. I have earned every scar and swollen knuckle on my hands. My callouses may fade away, but I will remain a friend to the working men/women of America.
The ironic thing about Labor Day was that all the working class folks I knew, worked on Labor Day. The banks are closed, the post office may be closed, but the working folks are mostly, still working. My wife would try to explain to me that Labor Day was a day to take off. I would argue that it’s called Labor Day for a reason…so I can labor.
The history of Labor Day is much older than I ever would have guessed. According to the Department of Labor the first Labor Day was September 5, 1882. It was fully recognized in 1885 and became more nationally known as the “Workingmen’s Holiday”. I find it kind of fitting that there is a dispute about who should get credit for starting the holiday. Two working class fellas both claim to have started it. One Matthew Maguire, a machinist, and Peter McGuire, a carpenter, have been credited as the “Father of Labor Day”.
As many fights as I grew up around. It’s only fitting that a pair of men are fighting over Labor Day. You know if they were here today and enjoying a few beers at the local watering hole, they would soon be fighting over the correct spelling of their last names. But then, in all likelihood, they would spit out some blood, and perhaps a tooth, and buy each other another round.
God bless Labor Day and God bless our American workers. I’ve worked in both blue and white collars and I agree with my wife, it’s good to take a day off once in a while, no matter which McGuire/Maguire founded it.
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