Millions of people are expected to travel over the Labor Day weekend by plane, train, bus and car. This three-day weekend is thought to be the end of the summer season. It's the last chance to enjoy some downtime until the seasonal holidays at the end of the year. Whether you're taking a full-fledged vacation across the country or just a day trip down the road, this weekend is vital to the economy of many communities that rely on tourism. Even if you're just spending the day in your own backyard, having a BBQ with friends and family, it's still time for you to relax and enjoy a day off work. However, for many Americans, the three-day weekend is just another day of work. Even though Congress intended Labor Day to be a day to honor the workers and laborers who generally go unnoticed, there are many professions that can't just take a day off.
In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the law that made Labor Day a federal holiday. It had been celebrated for many years prior, but it took the Pullman Strike to make the day nationally recognized. The railroad workers went on strike and boycotted the trains with Pullman cars after the company had to reduce wages and lay off employees. The problem was that the company did not reduce rents in the company towns. The strike and boycott practically shut down the railroad. The trade unions were divided in how to deal with the strike, which affected almost every rail center across the United States.
The government intervened, but the American Railway Union chose to ignore the injunction to stop their efforts. The U.S. Marshals and U.S. Army stepped in at the behest of President Cleveland. Violence ensued, and 30 strikers were killed and many more were wounded. The property damage was extensive. The strike divided towns and communities, because some sided with labor while others sided with the government. Cleveland hoped that Labor Day would help the government regain support of the trade unions.
According to the Department of Labor, the first Monday in September is "dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers." It's to honor those individuals who contributed to the growth and prosperity of the United States. We remember Andrew Carnegie, J.P. Morgan, Henry Ford and those who provided the finances and vision of the Industrial Revolution, but the ones who labored to create the car you drive are never named.
Thank Those Who Work Anyway
All this isn't to make you feel guilty for taking a day off in September. If you're one of the travelers who gets to enjoy a three-day weekend, please, enjoy the time with your family and friends. Just remember to thank the workers who don't get the day off. Police officers and firemen have to be ready for increased numbers of accidents and incidents that inevitably happen when there's more cars on the road. The hotel maids and restaurant servers who take care of you don't have the choice to be at home with their loved ones.
Although Congress calls Labor Day a federal holiday, there are no laws that say an employer must pay its employees a holiday stipend. In fact, many workers are forced to work the day at a regular wage or are required to take the day off without pay.
While you're enjoying your time off, thank those workers who are toiling away at their jobs to serve you. Some don't have a choice in their working hours. If you're an employer, consider making Labor Day a holiday for your entire staff or at least finding a way to give them a different day to let them know how much they're appreciated.