Labor Day is often a demarcation line. In much of the country, although not as much here, it portends the immediate approach of cooler weather. In all regions it signals the return of football. And it marks the beginning of a new season in the fashion world.
Because the first Monday in September is a national holiday, many families use it for one last summer getaway before the kids have to get busy in school.
Somehow lost in all of that is the original reason for the holiday: to celebrate the contributions of the American worker to our society.
There is debate as to who first suggested the idea of such a holiday, but suffice to say the notion first surfaced in the early 1880s during the early days of the American labor movement. Some cities on the East Coast set aside a day to honor workers in their towns, but Oregon was the first state to declare such a holiday.
Many other states followed closely behind in the early 1890s and momentum was building. But it was the horrible events surrounding the infamous Pullman strike in 1894 that moved Congress and President Grover Cleveland to swiftly coalesce around declaring Labor Day a national holiday.
What was originally a strike and boycott of the nation's freight and passenger traffic west of Detroit eventually devolved into riots that led to the death of 30 people at the hands of the U.S. military and the U.S marshals, not to mention more than $80 million in damage.
Following that disaster, Congress unanimously -- yes, unanimously -- took a mere six days -- yes, six days -- to send a bill to Cleveland's desk creating Labor Day as a national holiday. He signed it immediately, creating the first national holiday later that year.
It does demonstrate that the Congress can act quickly -- at least then -- when it believes something is important.
And it was, and is, important to recognize American workers. Even with the prolonged economic stagnation of the last five years, American labor continues to produce.
Although some nations are gaining a bit of ground, American workers still lead the world in productivity. This is nothing new. Americans have always had a strong work ethic. They work longer hours and more efficiently than their counterparts in Europe and most other wealthy nations.
American workers have created the highest standard of living in the world and continue to perform admirably under uncertain economic circumstances.
With a lingering weak economy, it may be easy to forget the many successes of American labor and the critical role the average worker continues to play. Today, we should all take a moment during our extended weekend to remember and appreciate the U.S workforce.