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Labor Day: A Day to Honor the Working Men and Women

By Ed Parsons - Editor | Sep 9, 2020

According to history compiled by the U.S. Labor Department, credit for Labor Day belongs to Peter J. McGuire, a member of the carpenters union in New York and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, who championed a parade to “show the strength of the trade and labor organizations.”

A day to honor labor was first observed on Sept. 5, a Tuesday, 136 years ago in New York City, with some 10,000 people marching in a parade.

The holiday has evolved into a celebration of the contributions of workers, the backbone of any strong economy. Here in the Upstate, where manufacturing jobs are in plentiful supply, many companies and educational institutions are working together to train workers for the tasks at hand.

Labor Day was celebrated on a Monday for the first time in 1884. Three years later, Oregon became the first state to establish it as an official holiday, soon followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York.

Congressional recognition came in 1894 – just six days after President Grover Cleveland sent the military to crush a strike that started at the Pullman railroad car company and spread to the nation’s railroads.

The conciliatory gesture wasn’t enough to get Cleveland re-elected two years later, but Labor Day endures as an American tradition.

As it often does, this Labor Day weekend marks the start of back to school, college football season, and the (not official) end of summer. It’s a sure sign of the transition from summer to fall as the appearance of leaves on the trees turn a different shade of green, with a few weeks left before the bright orange and red leaves start to appear.

Labor day weekend 2020 was like none other we’ve ever experienced, with political turmoil and COVID-19 taking front stage, it became more difficult to celebrate and savor the many reforms that came to pass in the era of the first Labor Day celebration: eight-hour workdays, 40-hour work weeks, an end to child labor, workplace safety laws, and the occasional three-day weekend.

Paden City kept up the tradition of 70 years, by having their annual Labor Day Parade on Monday. While it wasn’t the normal type parade the town puts on under the direction and leadership of Susan Wade, it was still a nice parade featuring many firetrucks, police cars, political figures and other dignitaries. I t kept the tradition of Labor Day alive as we look to honor those who have worked so hard over the years to make this country a great place to live. Labor unions and other workers rode and marched in the parade to let everyone know without the working men and women we wouldn’t be the nation we are today. Thank a laborer when you see one!

On Saturday and Sunday leading up to Labor Day, I think most people in the state had the same idea as I had.

My plans were to clean up my yard, do some mowing and trimming and clean along the curb. With that out of the way, the next thing on the agenda was to take a long drive through the back roads of the state and get the last look of summer.

What a beautiful trip it was.

Starting on Rt. 250 from Hundred, WV, I made the drive to Bridgeport where I picked up Rt. 50 and took it all the way to Red House, Md., it was a beautiful sunny day with mild temperatures and along the way I stopped at cool-springs to grab a snack and look at the same stuff that was there 20 years ago!

Anyway I also ended up in Elkins, Parsons, Thomas, and Buckannon before getting on Rt. 250 and taking it to the Va. border. Other stops along the way included Summersville, Gauley Springs, and Hawks Nest State Park. The scenery was magnificent. One of the things I like best about traveling with out any particular destination is finding little treasures along the way at roadside sales or yard and garage sales. I picked up a few tools that I don’t need and some beautiful glassware, which I am over run with, but can never seem to get enough of.

At run location along Rt. 20 which I somehow managed to get lost on, I stopped at a junk store. Those are where you can find your best bargains. After looking for 20 minutes I was ready to leave when I noticed, a box that had a harmonica sticking out of it. I picked it up and there were several nice ones all in different keys with a neck holder. I asked the price and he said is $5 to much? I gave him a twenty and told him to keep the change. That was my treasure for the week!

See Labor day might just be another holiday for most people, a day of cookouts and family together, but because of the Labor Movement over the past 136 years, we all can enjoy the fruits of our labor in any fashion we so please. Sure there will be businesses still open and employees may be required to work, but the point is, we have opportunities that many in the world cannot enjoy. If you live and work in America you are one of the few people in the world who can make choices for yourself, whether you are employed for someone else or operate your own business, you still can thank those who fought many hard battles to provide employee benefits, retirement income, overtime pay, and the chance to enjoy time off with family and friends. Thank the working men and women, they have made this country the best in the world.