Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Labor Day has run its course as a holiday

Happy Labor Day.

Not that anyone much cares about labor or the labor movement anymore.

Labor Day is an anachronism of more turbulent times. Humanity was being ground in the gears of the Industrial Revolution in the 19th century and by the end of the century humanity started fighting back through the labor movement.

The first Labor Day holiday was enacted by New York City in 1882. By 1894, an act of Congress added it to the short list of unpaid federal worker holidays, after the Fourth of July, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s.

Celebrating American labor on Labor Day has waxed and waned with worker prosperity over the years. When it first started, Labor Day was as big as Independence Day, with hundreds of thousands turning out for parades and fairs. It reached its apex during the Depression when in 1941 in Los Angeles an estimated 100,000 people marched in the parade and more than 500,000 people lined the streets to watch it.

Today it’s more of a celebration of the end of summer, a last hurrah before the start of the school year (in most states). It’s a time to go camping, roller coaster riding or beach combing. The labor of Labor Day gets nary a nod or tip of the hat.

This year appears to be no different, which is interesting considering the American worker has been battered more this year than any year since World War II.

Perhaps American workers aren’t rallying around Labor Day demanding more rights and benefits because they would be fighting battles they’ve already won.

It’s the same problem affecting unions. Though millions are out of work, union enrollment has not increased much in the two years of this brutal recession.

Why? Because all the abuses of industry from 100 years ago have been made illegal and because all the rights workers demanded back then have been made law.

American workers don’t need unions to protect them anymore because the law does it instead.

So perhaps Labor Day as a celebration of the American worker has run its course. There’s no chance Americans will give up the holiday, but perhaps there’s something else out there worth celebrating we could change its name to?

How about Ronald Reagan Day, a celebration of the icon of the modern conservative movement? Or maybe move the holiday forward a few days and make it Sept. 11 Memorial Day, a solemn holiday of remembrance and vigilance against the scourge of terrorism.

If we’re not going to celebrate labor on Labor Day, why have it as a holiday? Perhaps it’s time for a change.

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