Labor Day Weekend traditionally marks the end of summer in the USA. Millions of Americans flocked to the shore, lakes, mountains, parks, and backyards for a last gasp of enjoyment before going back to work. Few realize that the holiday was established by President Grover Cleveland as a peace offering after his ordering in troops and federal marshals to break up the 1894 Pullman Strike outside Chicago.
The American Railway Union had struck and boycotted the Pullman Coach Company throughout the summer. Executives had cut workers' wages, but refused to lower prices at the company stores or rents in their company towns. Nearly 200,000 railroad workers walked out across the country effectively shutting down transportation from coast to coast.
President Cleveland called in 12,000 federal troops to protect corporate property and escort scabs or strike-breakers across the picket lines. In the ensuing violence thirty strikers were killed and many others wounded. Public opinion favored the action and ARU leader Eugene Debs was imprisoned for six months. Further investigation faulted George Pullman with inciting the unrest.
Immediately after the end of the strike Cleveland designated first weekend in September as Labor Day was chosen rather than International Workers Day in May due to its association communists, anarchists, and socialists.
On Saturday I asked twenty people at the farmers' market in Fort Greene, "Why do we have Labor Day?"
Most said to celebrate the end of summer, a few replied that they didn't know, and two answered to honor the working man without any mention of the struggle to win an 8-hour day, a minimum wage, health care, social security, and many other commonly accepted entitlements for the working classes.
The Republicans with their Tea Party adherents know exactly what was won by those strikers and the GOP has refused to enact any legislation to overhaul the national infrastructure. They prefer for the country to crumple into dust rather than hired hundreds of thousands of Americans for good-paying jobs.
An annual expenditure $100 billion will transform America into a nation of workers.
Do not give them up without a fight.
The police are workers working for the bosses.
They are not our friends when in uniform, except when they remember that they are union members too.
Workers of the world unite.