Observed the first Monday in September, Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. The holiday is rooted in the late nineteenth century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.
Labor Day is often celebrated with parades and festive “end of summer” get-togethers in parks or at the beach. This year, with the continuing rise in Covid-19 cases, I think I’ll avoid the large gatherings. But a peaceful picnic with the family might be just the thing:
Tracey, John M. [Untitled—Picnic Scene], circa 1870. Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of Mary Glancy Bragg, CC0. Click to open larger image in new window.
I hope you enjoy a safe and restful Labor Day holiday today. And while you do, give a thought to those who show up and do the work that makes modern life possible: the retail clerk, the warehouse stocker, the delivery driver, the burger-flipper, the janitor that sweeps the floors and takes out the trash. Life would be intolerable without their work. They deserve our respect, and a living wage.
We look around every day and we see thousands and millions of people making inadequate wages. Not only do they work in our hospitals, they work in our hotels, they work in our laundries, they work in domestic service, they find themselves underemployed. You see, no labor is really menial unless you’re not getting adequate wages. People are always talking about menial labor. But if you’re getting a good (wage) […] that isn’t menial labor. What makes it menial is the income, the wages.
Martin Luther King, Jr., speech at the Local 1199 Salute to Freedom, March 1968, via AFSCME, accessed Sept. 6, 2021.
Back soon with more Clark House history.