Monday, September 5, 2011

2011 Labor Day Special!

I just wanted to thank all of the wonderful doctors and nurses working so hard today, helping all of those pregnant women giving birth. It must be rough having one day of the year dedicated to having all pregnant women go into labor, and...

What's that? Well, how far, exactly, is "WAY off base?" A thousand miles in this case?

Well, I'm not alone. Most Americans no longer even know what the holiday is, other than a kind of seasonal bookmark to end all summer shenanigans and to let us know that kids are going back to school. And it is there, in school, that we were never really taught what the day meant. It was just a day off from work for our parents, if they held such jobs that gave off for holidays. Thus, I feel it's time I schooled you kids on what Labor Day is about.

I suppose we can call the 1880s the late adolescence of the United States. We'd already had our rebellious, early teen years, in which we had a truly bloody Civil War. (Second American Revolution for my southern readers, right?) During the 1880s, there was a great deal of financial growth in the States overall. But where the housing market was a big part of the problem for our recent recession, back then it was railroad speculations. Too much growth, including some ill-advised purchases of smaller companies by larger ones. An influx of silver from out west was also part of the problem, (but I'm not quite understanding that one. Economic genius, I am not.) Come the 1890s, trouble was looming. Banks started failing and railroads went bankrupt.

Enter "the Panic of 1893." We didn't ease into a recession. We fell right on into a depression. Unemployed workers marched on Washington in 1894 to protest Grover Cleveland's financial policies, demanding some type of job relief program.

And what goes better with an economic depression than a series of strikes? One of the most notable was the "Pullman Strike." Due to their financial struggles, the Pullman Palace Car Company decided their best course of action was to cut the wages of their employees. Said employees tried to send a delegation to talk the situation over with the owner, George Pullman, but he decided that they weren't worth his valuable time. Thus, they made it worth his time. If time is money, they cost George a lot of it by shutting down the works. Around 125,000 men made it their business to prevent Pullman cars from being...pulled. (Sorry.)

President Cleveland decided to break up the strike because it was supposedly interfering with the delivery of the mail. Big federal no-no, y'know? So he sent in troops, and they handled it by managing to kill 13 workers and wounding 57 others.

Yeah, that worked. The violence increased. In the end, around $340,000 in damages was done by about 6,000 workers, which, when taking inflation into account, is estimated at over $8,000,000 in today's money.

Money vs. lives. It never comes out even, as you can't put value on a human life. So to try and make up for it, Grover Cleveland reconciled by making Labor Day a federal holiday, as a way of saying, "Hey, thanks for all the hard work you folks do." I'm not actually sure how a national day off from work compensates for the loss of lives, but it seemed to do the trick.

And that's about all I could squeeze out of my one and only Wiki source. It states at the beginning that the holiday "celebrates the economic and social contributions of workers." These days, we "celebrate" Labor Day with retail sales and the gleeful idea that the streets will have fewer kids roaming about during the day. While we might give thanks to our nation's soldiers on Veteran's Day, I sincerely doubt anyone is walking up to someone who's employed and shaking their hand, saying, "Hey...thanks for having a job!"

Now that's enough out of you! You've been sitting there, reading this relatively short blog post, wasting valuable time on something you may or may not have already known. (Likely that you didn't, I'll bet. =P ) Get back to work!

Oh...before I go, be well, and DFTBA! =)

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