Hopefully you and your family are enjoying this Labor Day weekend, whether you’re taking one last warm-weather trip to the lake, having friends over for a barbecue or working on the backlog of chores around the house.
It’s quite the pleasant weekend — for those of us who have job security.
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.
Historians have pinpointed two possible founders of Labor Day: Peter J. McGuire, a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, and Matthew Maguire, secretary of an International Association of Machinists union. There is debate over which of the two first proposed the holiday, but what is clear is that in the 1880s, the Central Labor Union in New York adopted a Labor Day proposal and planned a picnic and demonstration for workers, according to the Department of Labor.
The group had wanted a day to show “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations of the community,” according to the department. The first Labor Day was celebrated Sept. 5, 1882 — a Tuesday — in New York City.
Two years later, the Central Labor Union switched the day to the first Monday in September, and soon after the “workingmen’s holiday” spread to other cities and states.
Twelve years after the first Labor Day celebration, President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day a national holiday.
Labor Day has since evolved into a celebration of all American laborers. The DOL also notes “labor (has) 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.”
We agree: The strength of America is directly related to the strength of labor in what the DOL calls “private non-farm payrolls.” Labor Day is a day to celebrate working Americans.
Labor — especially hard, blue-collar labor — has been good to Lufkin and Angelina County over the decades. However, the last few years have been a bit of a roller coaster ride. Plant closings and layoffs several years ago have been offset more recently by several new economic development opportunities — new businesses moving to East Texas or the expansion of existing companies.
The nation’s employment situation is a bit better, with the unemployment rate being the lowest it has been in years and the stock market at all-time highs.
Those of us who are fortunate to have good jobs in the Lufkin area should make sure we take the opportunity the Labor Day weekend provides to count our blessings. To those whose careers are in turmoil, we offer our best wishes. We hate that so many East Texans’ lives have been shaken by national economic woes, especially in the oil and gas industry, but we hold out hope that you will be able to continue to provide a good life for your family — still in the Texas Forest Country, ideally.
Either way, we wish a happy Labor Day to each and every East Texan.