We always look for a green angle in any holiday, and a few years back a commenter found it for us:
Canadian roots, but the real reason we are celebrating it as a holiday celebrating labor is political; May Day was too pinko for Grover Cleveland. Brendan Koerner wrote in Slate
This is a holiday about social justice which is inseparable from environmental justice.
In 1894, after President Grover Cleveland ordered the brutal suppression of the Pullman Strike, he realized that he had to do something to curry favor with the labor movement, which viewed him with contempt. Worried that a May 1 holiday would encourage rabble-rousing in commemoration of the Haymarket Riot, he followed the lead of several states and made the first Monday in September a federal holiday in honor of the workingman.
Here, there was a focus was on celebrating those who work with their hands.
There is a price to pay for cheap energy and gas for our cars that goes beyond dollars, as we saw this year with the 29 dead miners in West Virginia and the 11 on the Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf. American labor used to make things and fix things, and used to be proud to do it, for a decent wage....But somehow over the last 50 years, America's business became one of building houses, cars and roads to get to the houses, digging up coal to make electricity to cool the houses, buying oil around the world to run the cars, and filling big box stores with cheap imported crap to fill the houses, all on borrowed money and subsidized by cheap gas.
More in TreeHugger, and don't read the comments.
2009: Happy Labour Day (And That Is How You Should Spell It)
We try to find a green angle in every holiday; Labour Day is a stretch, but there is a bit of one. All those parents keeping their kids home from school tomorrow because they might hear socialist indoctrination from the President should be sending them to school today, the ultimate socialist holiday. It is an imported holiday; the first Labour Day parade was in Toronto in 1872, after the Toronto Typographical Union staged an illegal strike in support of a 58 hour work week and better working conditions. Printers had a life expectancy of about 35 years because of the lead, the toxic inks and the high rate of accidents.
In July of 1882 Peter J. McGuire, the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor was invited to speak in Toronto at a labour festival and was impressed. He organized the first American Labor Day Parade in New York in September 1882.
Of course, American historians don't agree with this history- more in TreeHugger.
2007: Quote of the Labor Day: Samuel Gompers
When I quoted labor activist Samuel Gompers, commenters called it "lame and sexist" for its comment about womenhood. "WTF! Why can't all of these various issues finally intertwine and give me a truly progressive stance? How can I get behind this kind of oppositionally sexist rhetoric?" While I agree people might not write like this today, it was over a hundred years ago.
What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures, to make manhood more noble, womanhood more beautiful, and childhood more happy and bright.
2005:Labor Day: Time to Think about Fair Trade
It is that uniquely North American holiday, Labor Day. The rest of the world celebrates Labor on May 1, but the U.S government thought it too pinko and declared it to be the first Monday in September, giving us all an extra day of summer and reducing the size of the rallies. (who wants to march when there is a game on?)
Although Fair Trade Day is celebrated around May Day, we thought it might be a good day for North American Treehuggers to consider the Fair Trade Movement.
"Before you've finished your breakfast this morning, you'll have relied on half the world"
- Martin Luther King via ::MakeTradeFair
Fair Trade, or alternative trade," refers to the exchange of goods based on principles of economic and social justice. The key objectives of Fair Trade are to empower low-income artisans and farmers to better their conditions, and to promote understanding between them and people of developed regions. More in TreeHugger...