Written by Charlie Gebhardt, Investigator
(Indiana Harbor Belt Railroad, 1948-1993)
"...Labor Day, belongs to all of us... Labor Day symbolizes the hope of all Americans...The Fourth of July commemorates our political freedom - a freedom which without economic freedom is meaningless indeed. Labor Day symbolizes our determination to achieve an economic freedom for the average man which will give his political freedom reality." -- Franklin Delano Roosevelt - September 6, 1936
Let's see -- end of summer, start of school, football, extra day off, picnics. In so many respects, this is what we regard as Labor Day. So why L-A-B-O-R Day?
Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, on a bill signed by President Cleveland. All of us, laborers and non-laborers, union and non-union, enjoy today the gains made by the labor movement over time. But too often -- much too often -- we forget (ignore) the stand our labor forebears, some of whom we still work alongside, had to take to get us the many improvements in our way of life. Those improvements were won by laborers interested in being informed of the issues affecting their lives and uniting with their union leadership.
In order to obtain the things we now sometimes take for granted - like the eight-hour workday and the right to collective bargaining, past labor members gave their time and put their jobs, even their lives, on the line. They suffered through harassment and bodily harm, not only by the hand of company "goons" or company police, but by the police and National Guard, as well. For their efforts, these labor members and their families were often discredited in their communities. Eventually they were recognized, brought to the negotiating table, and succeeded in making great gains for the workingman.
SHARE IN HISTORY
Labor Day is the day to reflect on these things and to explain this history to our children and grandchildren and others who do not yet understand the true meaning of Labor Day. It's also a good day for union members to take a look at their own involvement and the future of the labor movement.
The article you're reading is no doubt read by many good union members, including yourself. But how many members attended your last union meeting - did you? After many continuing years of involvement with the union, I've learned that it takes all of us, the old and new hires alike, to work together to keep the labor movement moving. We need to remember our history and understand that it takes a little time on each of our parts to unite as brothers in an effort to attain mutual goals and dreams.
Labor Day is a day for laborers. We owe it to ourselves, our families, and to those who paved the road before us to become better informed and more involved.
We hope you enjoy "your" Labor Day!