Monday, Sept. 7, is Labor Day in the United States and Canada, honoring workers and recognizing their contributions to society.
Americans might have chosen any day to celebrate Labor Day. One option, proposed by the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions, was the first Monday in May. On May 1, 1886, the federation continued the struggle for 8-hour workdays in Chicago.
An 8-hour workday was considered a socialist dream for years, and it was not achieved without peaceful protests and work strikes, some of which became violent.
A protest of police brutality on May 4 at the Haymarket Square was pronounced peaceful by Chicago Mayor Carter Harrison, who attended as an observer, we’re told by Britannica.com. After the mayor and most of the protesters left, a contingent of police officers arrived and ordered that the crowd disperse. “At that point a bomb was thrown by an individual never positively identified, and police responded with random gunfire.” The end result was seven officers dead and 60 wounded. At least one civilian died but estimates are four to eight civilians died and 30-40 were injured.
Depending on which version of history you believe, the Haymarket Riot or Haymarket Incident was either the result of anarchist and socialist activists or overzealous police officers. It either represented a setback for the labor movement or provided martyrs for the cause.
The U.S. Department of Labor (dol.gov/general/laborday/history) says that “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is 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 wellbeing of our country.”
The same source notes: “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership – the American worker.”
Yes, Labor Day is a patriotic holiday, and a time to show pride if you are counted among the American workers.