Friday, September 04, 2009

i think i'll labor in the garden this weekend

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Have you been making plans for your extended Labor Day weekend? Will you attend a traditional parade, or maybe gather family and friends for a fine-weather barbecue before the end of summer?

With all the talk in the news right now about our high unemployment rate, I've been thinking about why we celebrate Labor Day in the first place. Did you know this observance started in Canada following labor disputes there, then was transported to New York City by American labor leaders in 1882, and was proposed as a national holiday by President Cleveland following the widespread railroad Pullman Strike (started in Pullman, Illinois) in 1894? During high school, I spent a school holiday laboring intensely over a term paper on labor unions, labor strikes, and labor union leader Eugene Debs, first a Democrat and then a Socialist who, after being imprisoned for his part in the Pullman Strike, was ultimately nominated 5 times for President by his sympathizers.

Our labor laws have come a long way since. It's interesting, too, to see how we've adjusted our social attitudes about labor in this country as our population and the size of our federal government have grown. Regardless of our uncertain economy today, many now seem to take it for granted that everyone should have access to a paying job -- or to federal subsidies like unemployment and welfare paid for by those who do work. Even in the best of times, job guarantees obviously can't be the case.  And who is to provide all those jobs?  In a week-long series of articles back in the booming mid-1990s, The Washington Post quoted a Pennsylvania trucker, saying "I've never met a poor man yet who could offer me a job." While working for someone else is nothing new or even always desirable, when did it morph into an American right? Happily, this country does seek to allow us to work how and where we please, including for ourselves. Surely that's what our holiday parades should celebrate.

If you have any spare time this long weekend, perhaps you'll enjoy visiting Brin's blog, My Messy, Thrilling Life. Please read it from the beginning, back when she started in 2005. It's a well-written story that will capture your emotions as you follow her labors to build her dream at Freeman House. Be prepared. As she quotes, life is not always tied up with a bow, but it is a gift nonetheless.

Wishing you a leisurely weekend!
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4 comments:

Thrifty Miss Priss said...

wonderful post! I'm headed over to My Messy Thrilling Life now!
Have a wonderful weekend!

Beth Leintz said...

Amen-the economy has really reminded me that a job is a privilege, not a right. Another observation on the changing attitudes about government responsibility- is the economy really the government's responsibility, or the responsibility of the workforce?

Ok, enough seriousness- have a great weekend!

Stephenie said...

What a great post.. You know I never new any of those facts about labor day.. Thanks for the sharing this post with us..
STephenie

karlascottage.typepad.com said...

I'm always happy to find a new blog, thanks for the tip.