Our History of Labor: Strike One! Strike Two!

Exhibit from the earliest factory strike in America, Rhode Island 1824

I suspect many of us are enjoying this three-day weekend: Labor Day, Back to School, End of Summer, Back to Work. Of course, many kids have already gone to school–or some semblance of it, with masks and shortened days–and those who work have probably been doing so and will continue. But any time’s the right time for a Holiday, isn’t it?

The focus of this holiday has always been barbecues and the last little celebration before the chill of autumn begins. Yet, unlike Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, or Christmas, there’s rarely a thought given to the reason the day itself. Let’s change that.

Let’s talk about Labor.

Picture from UFCW.org celebrating Labor Day

If you remember your high school American History — or if you google it — the late 1880s always pops up as the “birth” of Labor Movement. This is both true and false. America, like other places with expanding factories and machines in the late 19th century, saw a rise in demands for better treatment of workers. But demands didn’t spring out of nowhere in 1886, the date of the first government-sanctioned Labor Day. History did not begin in 1886. Worker demands go back further than that.

Continue reading “Our History of Labor: Strike One! Strike Two!”