A fresh take on Labor Day in the military

  • Published
  • By SrA Daniel Liddicoet
  • 49th Wing/PA
For many of us, Labor Day serves chiefly as a way to bid farewell to the sweltering summer months. While the origins of the federal holiday are often overlooked, Americans still relish the opportunity to barbecue and usher in the start of football season over the extended weekend. Although Labor Day is rooted in the history surrounding the American Labor Movement and the struggle of workers in the 19th century to organize and achieve social and economic rights, members of the U.S. military can still pay tribute to the relentless spirit of the working man in America.

Labor Day by nature, is not a day tailored to the achievements or sacrifices of federal government employees. Instead, the holiday seeks to commemorate the progress made by organized labor movements in this country and the passing of favorable labor laws for blue-collar workers.

The holiday was originally promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first parade in New York City. After the Haymarket Massacre, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886, U.S. President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the affair. Thus, in 1887, it was established as an official holiday in September to support the Labor Day that the Knights favored.

In many ways, with the class of manual laborers having shrunk significantly in the modern era, it is difficult for a majority of Americans to empathize with the original context of the now federal holiday. As such, it is important to try and glean additional meaning and perspective during the long weekend.

Regardless of your employment status, Labor Day still holds a special significance as it strives to commemorate the gritty and resilient spirit of Americans everywhere. The holiday should serve as time to reflect upon the many ways in which the working class has aided the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.