05 September 2011

5 September - Labor Day

Today, the first Monday in September, the United States celebrates Labor Day.  So drink beer (the working man's tipple) and celebrate all those who fought - and sometimes died - for decent wages and working conditions.

This year, in my research for my parish's history, I came across newspaper articles from 1866, announcing that labor unions were forming in town to push for the ten-hour day.  The local paper was in favor of this, as the usual work-day of twelve- to fourteen-hours, SIX days a week, left no time for the workers to engage in rest and recreation, which the editors deemed necessary for physical, mental, and moral health.  Nor could they work toward bettering themselves by attending evening schools.  The newspaper bemoaned that factory owners calling themselves Christians, who had actively denounced the former slavery in the Southern States, treated the people in their factories as little more than slaves; the editors applauded all efforts to redress such wrongful treatment.

(Of course, it didn't help that the workers here were mostly immigrants, without rights of any kind - and that, in the Smallest State, naturalized citizens were denied the right to vote until 1888.  The 15th Amendment didn't apply to them.)