Tomorrow is Labor Day. For most that means a three day weekend. For many it means the start of autumn – hello Pumpkin spice everything (more on that another day soon). For some it means traveling for the last get-away before the long haul. For a few fashionistas it means the last day to wear white until Memorial Day. Hey, we don’t get it either – blame Martha Stewart or another of her ilk. Maybe, you can’t wear white because no one will see you in the snow; and the whole point of fashion is to be seen – right?
But what is Labor Day?
To answer that question we are going to travel back to the early days of America as a newly forming nation. Most people made a living – or really made a life – by maintaining a self-sustaining farm. They grew their own food, made their own clothes, built their own homes, and that independent living sort of thing. Of course, some were artisans who created things like horse shoes or other wares they could ply. Ok, we were looking for an opportunity to use the phrase ‘ply their wares.’ Anyway, in the late eighteenth century (1700’s} well over eighty percent of people were farmers. Then came the Industrial Revolution. New machines meant mass production and a shift from the farm to the factory. At that time America was growing through immigration. The main jobs available for the new immigrants were in the factory.
Those jobs were monotonous, Workers performed the same task repeatedly throughout a twelve hour day for six to seven days a week. It was not a great life – obviously. At the turn of the nineteenth century the average cost of living was approximately 600 dollars a year (yes, a year). However, the average worker made less than 500 dollars a year. This created a situation in which workers were in perpetual debt and therefore a form of servitude. There was also the issue of child labor. Children as young as five were forced to work in order to close the debt gap for their families. They only earned a small portion of what their adult counterparts made, but every cent helped. Add to this the dangerous conditions in factories and mines where severe injuries and death were commonplace.
This is not a beautiful background for Labor Day.
These conditions were a pressure cooker that released tension at various times. There were occasional riots around the nation.
In New York, ten thousand workers took a day off (without pay of course) to march from City Hall to Union Square. The first march was on September 5th 1882 and became an annual event. Other places around the country participated on the first Monday in September. Pressure from the masses led to local governments recognizing this ‘workingmen’s holiday.’ The federal government refused to recognize the holiday until the workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company (the railroad) refused to work. The railroad union called for a national boycott to support the striking workers. This brought transportation of goods to a stand still. In order to appease workers, Congress sanctioned Labor Day as a legal holiday.
There you have it.
As we look back it makes us realize how blessed we are to live in a time and place in which we have the ability to pursue jobs that we want. We at Tabanero Cigars are thankful for the opportunity to pursue our dreams. As you enjoy this Labor Day weekend may you find yours to be a labor of love that gives you both purpose and joy.