Labor Day Takes on Different Meaning

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The Kansas City Star

Stacey Hatton Commentary


previously printed on September 1, 2010

I grew up as one of those average kids who treated school as a social arena instead of the learning institution it should be.

At a young age, I performed well enough in the classroom to keep the parents happy in between cutting up with friends. Why did I need to learn about fractions, when I was going to be a famous actress? See how well that worked out for me.

It seems that my lack of Trivial Pursuit skills — due to ignoring teachers — is kicking me in the gluteus maximus these days. (I only retained information from nursing school.)

History is actually interesting, and I now yearn to learn about the world and what has occurred off the Broadway stage since the beginning of time. I had no idea people were so busy and not singing and dancing their way through life!

So for all of these years I haven’t bothered worrying about Labor Day. Never once did I ask, “Why is there a holiday about work?” I wasn’t going to work; I was merely acting! But a national holiday doesn’t come around just because someone influential wants another day off between July 4th and Thanksgiving — or does it?

In 1894, in Pullman, Ill., railway workers were protesting unsafe working conditions and were not happy about the increasingly long shifts and decreasing pay. Bunch of whiners! I love working long hours and not getting paid. That’s why I became a mother!

So seriously, the demonstrations turned violent, so Grover Cleveland (not really sure who this guy is) sent in troops to break up the strikes. It turned quite ugly. People died, so President Cleveland felt bad he had made a gigantic mess of things and decided to right his wrong by giving the American working man one day off. (This way Americans could take their family to the last day of the summer pool season and eat hot dogs and apple pie.)

I couldn’t quite find out if the people actually forgave Mr. President for slaughtering their townsfolk in exchange for a vacation day, but that was so long ago.

Labor Day, according to the government, will always be the first Monday in September. Yes, a vacation day to separate July 4th and Thanksgiving. But it is truly a day to remember the American men and women who were killed by U.S. troops on their own streets in Illinois. All these poor irritated Illinoisans wanted were better working conditions. Can you blame them?

I guess they got a day off for subsequent Americans, so we should stop and raise our beverage from poolside this Labor Day. And while dodging the black cloud of smoke from the barbecue, take a moment to thank these brave workers for helping us celebrate the end of another wonderful summer.

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