The Student News Site of University of Arizona

The Daily Wildcat

79° Tucson, AZ

The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Labor Day more than just beer and barbecue

    Stan Molevercolumnist
    Stan Molever
    columnist

    I pulled up to an Albertson’s in Phoenix yesterday to pick up a six-pack for my father’s Labor Day barbecue. I grabbed some American beer and headed over to his place for a few hot dogs, hamburgers and Springsteen.

    It was a nice enough time – family, friends, patriotism and the all-important knowledge that I was missing class. Thing is, it wasn’t until I was two hours and three beers into the evening that I remembered it wasn’t Memorial Day.

    So when my father asked me today about the meaning of the holiday, I just stared at him dumbstruck, like he had asked me to explain how people can be attracted to both thin, small-boobed Lindsay Lohan and not-so-thin, big-boobed Lindsay Lohan at the same time. (It’s a mystery of the universe – like dark matter or David Cross’ lack of mainstream popularity.)

    I guess I’m embarrassed to admit that prior to his question, I hadn’t spent a single moment of my day considering what I was celebrating. But the worst part was that nobody else around me seemed to have much of an idea either.

    So what exactly are we commemorating on the first Monday of September every year? Labor, obviously – the men and women who, well, work for a living.

    The federal holiday dates all the way back to a September 1882 parade of the Knights of Labor, an early American labor union. After successful marches in the early- to mid-1880s in support of better conditions for workers, the Knights of Labor began lobbying the federal government for a national day of rest to acknowledge the working class.

    At that time, many other labor unions were pressuring the government for a May 1 celebration to correspond with the initial eight-hour workday. But recent anarcho-socialist worker’s riots at the beginning of May in 1886 prompted President Cleveland to approve the Knights of Labor’s September date in an effort to prevent an American worker’s holiday from becoming too closely affiliated with socialism or communism.

    By 1887, the United States had a national workers’ holiday that fell in a completely different season than the local and international extreme left wanted. Take that, socialism. Booyakasha.

    And now, almost 120 years later, the working classes all over the country enjoy the first Monday of every September as a day to kick back and be proud of the essential services they provide each and every day.

    I can tell you firsthand that the kid who sold me my Labor Day beer has probably never felt so ennobled as he did yesterday. And same for the old woman who sold me my Starbucks later that night.

    By 1887, the United States had a national workers’ holiday that fell in a completely different season than the local and international extreme left wanted. Take that, socialism. Booyakasha.

    And the gardening crew who groomed my neighbor’s lawn so that she could have her picnic without worrying about the overgrowth bothering her guests.

    Funny, I took all those people for granted this year, just like I do every year, because I never really knew why we were swimming and eating bean dip in the first place.

    Maybe we could do a better job next year of remembering why we are celebrating. Almost all of us work tirelessly to make our communities a better place to live in, and it seems to me that on Labor Day, we do a pretty good job of taking a load off – if we or our employers can afford it.

    But many people can’t afford it. So Labor Day comes to be about a break and reward for the travail of only some of our workers.

    I know I wasn’t alone in my ignorance and passivity this year. It would be nice if we could remember each September that whether you work at the county courthouse or the campus Losbetos, each of us is doing the best we can to provide for ourselves and those we love in the good spirit of this country.

    So next year when you stop at Jett’s Wildcat to pick up a six-pack and the buns, maybe just take a minute to appreciate that somebody is working there, providing a service that we are all thankful for, and probably not ever getting much more than a penny tip. Let’s keep the barbecue fires burning – let’s just remember to pour one out for the homie who makes it possible.


    Stan Molever is a senior majoring in philosophy and economics. He can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

    More to Discover
    Activate Search