Inspection- Belaboring Labor Day

Militia (Pinkerton) hired by Andrew Carnegie’s man Henry Frick to do battle with striking workers

P. J. McGuire, Vice President of the American Federation of Labor: often credited as the father of U.S. Labor Day.

by Ken Carman

 The true American tradition is to take holidays and turn them into something they’re not. Christmas is about making money for businesses via Madison Avenue icon Santa Claus. Yes, Santa existed before that, and there is a historical edge to the character, but Santa as we know him now is a Inspectionmarketing tool used by parents to show love via newly acquired possessions known as gifts and hopefully encouraging better behavior.
 Why am I tempted to type, “How’s that working out for ya?” …fully aware my parents might have uttered the same words.
 Easter has some mutant Energizer Bunny who lays eggs, barfs up candy, and then spews them into baskets, or into the grass, behind bushes: all to create such a stampede some parents may wish to be in front of a bull wearing red instead. Here come the kiddos! Parents cry out “Ole!” …or run like a clown in a rodeo.
 And this has to do with rolled rocks, a tomb, and… oh, never mind.
 Labor Day may be one of the most ill-appropriated.
 It’s not supposed to be about motorboats on soon to be frozen again lakes, picnics, barbecues, getting plastered. Workers sacrificed a lot to get to where Labor Day was even possible: workers locked in factories that burned down, very young child labor, hideous long hours at close to slavery wages, company stores and housing where wages were turned into debt with high prices for goods and housing one must buy, absurdly high interest loans one must take out to replace wages lost due to having to buy from the company, union leaders murdered, 12 hour days in dangerous conditions, sucking in poisons due to no gas masks, no protections whatsoever.
 Yes, there have been corrupt union leaders in the past, just like there have been corrupt bosses, corporations. I would no more claim we need don’t need corporations or bosses than I would we should get rid of all unions.
 Maybe we have things to complain about work-wise, but we are light years beyond where we were. And why do I feel there are forces all too eager to drag us back to all that? Meanwhile the meaning of Labor Day is lost in time off, family squabbles, grilled chicken and often empty, shallow, celebration.
 The cheapening of our holidays doth not serve us well.

                                        -30-
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
©Copyright 2019
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
all rights reserved