Labor Day – Why Do We Have It?
According to Webster’s Dictionary, labor is defined as “work – most generally to work for wages in the production of goods and services.” now, if this is true, why is it today, this Labor Day, most people are not laboring? Just what’s the deal? Well, interestingly enough, Labor Day is not about laboring at all – it’s about celebration and relaxation and remembering. Remembering what? The great sacrifice made by so many American workers in our past to improve the working conditions in our America.
Believe it or not, it wasn’t that long ago, only a little over a hundred years ago, that the working conditions in America were very bad! The length of the work day was never less than 10 hours – most all workers had to work six days a week – and many worked a full seven days every week. There was no overtime pay, no paid vacations, no paid holidays – it was terrible.
Now, for the most part, the work place in America isn’t like that today at all. Just how did everything change so much? It was the people – the laborers. They had a vision for a better America; and they determined that if things were to change, to improve in the American work place, they would have to stand up together and fight for their rights as workers – and this was not easy.
As these American workers began to stand up for better working conditions, many times they were blacklisted by their employer, lost their job, and then, couldn’t get another job. And when they would have rallies and, later, strikes, many times the factory owners would bring in armed thugs called strike breakers to do literal bodily harm. But amazingly, the workers stood their ground – they refused to let anyone break their spirit. Men like Samuel Gompers. He worked so hard, risked so much, and as the first president of the American Federation of Labor, he worked tirelessly, most of his entire life, to improve our working conditions here in America. In fact, most historians today believe that Samuel Gompers was the most important personal influence in shaping labor and work conditions in our America.
But just what was his vision of a better workplace? He believed that Unions should avoid ties to government agencies and political parties; but, instead, to deal directly with the employers – to bargain together to come up with a labor plan which benefited everyone. His no nonsense commonsensical approach to labor problems made him a well-respected leader by both sides. Samuel Gompers supported labor laws aimed at regulating the conditions and hours of work for women and minors. And here’s the important part – he never stopped working for the little guy; he believed in the working rights for all Americans, big and small. And, because of the grit and determination of good Americans like Samuel Gompers, we American workers today enjoy much better working conditions and benefits – far surpassing anything those first workers could have ever imagined – and, today, we honor them for their part in making America a better place to live and work.
That’s a lot of what Labor Day is about; to not forget the great labor movements and the important part the first American laborers played in giving us the great country we have today.
But I believe Labor Day is a celebration of something else – it’s a celebration of the great economic success we have here in America today. Our America today is the most successful industrial nation in the world – and if you have any doubt as to our importance in world economics, just watch how the world market reacts when America goes through an economic boom or a bust.
But, just how has America managed to become such a successful nation? As history goes, we’re still a young country – practically babies. How did we get to be so strong and successful in just over 200 years? Well, I believe it’s because, first and foremost, our America has been blessed. I’m a great student of history and as I read and study our American history, it’s oh so clear that long ago, as early as the pilgrims landing on Plymouth Rock, maybe even sooner, God determined to bless America. It was our much beloved president, Ronald Reagan, who said:
“Without God in America there is no virtue,
Without God we’re mired in the material, flat world that tells us only what the senses perceive.
Without God, there is a coarsening of the society.
Without God, democracy will not and cannot long endure.
If we ever forget that we are ‘One Nation under God’ then we will be a Nation gone under”.
That is so true. And, if you’ll think about it, since the first American settlers came to this country, America has certainly had its share of ups and downs, but in the end, we have always come out on top – and that is no accident. As a nation, as a people, we have been so very blessed by Almighty God.
So today, this day, Labor Day 2021, let us make a new vow, a deeper more determined vow to labor for the Lord – to work until Jesus comes to take us home!