ROBB TODD

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    The history of Labor Day: People died so we can barbecue and drink beer and watch football

    I worked as a newspaper reporter and editor for more than a decade and never once read a story about the origin of Labor Day. Maybe journalists resent the holiday because they never get to take it off. (The newspaper industry is one of the biggest abusers of workers rights.)

    We all have a vague notion of what Labor Day represents: a day off to barbecue. But when other federal days off roll around, there are always explanatory stories urging people not to forget the meaning behind them, such as Veterans Day. We have this holiday because people sacrificed their lives for our country.

    That is also why we have Labor Day, although this remains a mystery to many people, including those paid to report on it.

    The U.S. government’s website touts Labor Day as “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.”

    This is propaganda by omission.

    What it does not mention, and what so few seem to mention, is the Pullman Strike of 1894. Union members were striking because the Pullman Palace Car Company wanted to cut their wages without reducing their 16-hour workdays or their rent at company-owned housing or the price of goods that the company sold to employees. This sounds familiar, right?

    Labor Day was a movement before this strike but it became a national holiday after the federal government, to protect corporate interests under the guise of delivering the mail, dispatched troops to end the railroad strike and more than a dozen union workers were killed and dozens more injured during the ensuing riots.

    The holiday is an apology.

    President Grover Cleveland pushed legislation through Congress just six days after the strike ended to appease union members, then a powerful force in the country. Unions are demonized today, but without them there would be no 40-hour work week or paid vacation or sick days or health insurance — although that, too, is disappearing, along with unions. Not a coincidence.

    Although, if it was not for unions we would not have to outsource all our jobs because we would still have child labor we could exploit right here at home — this is also the number one reason why our economy will not create jobs, although that seems to be an even bigger mystery to the frauds who want to blame it on taxes that help educate children and regulations that save lives.

    The ever-increasing gap between rich and poor in the United States is inversely proportionate to the demise of unions. Also not a coincidence. So when you flip your burger today and crack open a red, white and blue can with a waving flag on it, remember why you have this day off.

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