E. Delaney

E. Delaney

Emma Delaney, News Writer

After this past Monday, we’re not supposed to wear white. You may have heard this saying, and if you have, you may also know that this is because of Labor Day. There are many theories as to why this is a rule. Some think it was because white kept you cool in the summer months, and some believe it was a fashion rule for the upper class women in the late nineteenth century. This, however, is typically one of the only things people know about Labor Day.

Labor Day dates back to 1885, first celebrated by the Central Labor Union in New York City. The idea spread to other industrial organizations, and soon the whole country was celebrating Labor Day. Records show that the holiday was founded by secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Peter J. McGuire; he was also the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.

The holiday was set in celebration of America’s laborers, hence the name. The working class is an integral part of our great nation. They have toiled for generations to build up the United States and to become the land of opportunity that it was and is even more so today. The U.S. Department of Labor puts it excellently, “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.” Labor Day is an opportunity to pause, look around at the grandeur of America, and acknowledge the what the workforce has accomplished.

America has always been dreaming bigger and grander than anyone thought possible. In the early twentieth century, men were building immense skyscrapers – not with helicopters, platforms, or machines, but with their bare hands and tools. The workers would be thousands of feet in the sky with none of these things; in fact, they didn’t even have means of suspension like cords. Many men at a time would have to balance on a steel or iron beams, walking across long ones with no safety rails at all to make it to another end and continue working. One could not hesitate or look down or they would be doomed; sometimes even the bravest would fall. They performed bone-chillingly, deadly acts many times on the daily.

Another example of the ambition of the American workforce is Mount Rushmore, built in the nineteen-forties during the Great Depression. Not only were the carvings a colossal project, but it gave hundreds of people jobs earning eight dollars a day for those who were brave enough. Each day, workers climbed seven-hundred stairs to reach the top of the mountain, then were lowered in front of the 500 ft. face on thick steel cables. “90% of the carving was done using dynamite,” proclaims the National Park Service website. This made the process extremely risky when you had hundreds of people dangling right against the surface. Many workers would consume alcohol before they came to work just to give them enough boldness, which made the work possible, but that much more risky. Workers above would crank winches to lift them up before the charges were set off; they could not, however, see each other, so if a winch-worker went too fast, the worker could be dragged up the mountain on his face. Despite these incredible conditions, safety precautions were taken so that not one fatality occurred throughout the entire building of the Mt. Rushmore memorial.

Now we still celebrate the tradition of Labor Day, taking a day to stop and admire the results of America’s workforce. They are essential in turning the American Dream into a reality. We paused Monday to admire the great country we have because of its working people, and today we begin working again. Labor Day is a magnificent opportunity to look around and realize the privileges America has earned, and it should give us students motivation to excel so that we can soon join the force that makes America so formidable.