As I Please

Monday, September 01, 2008

Happy Labour Day
I posted this two years ago. I thought that with the decline in the auto-industry and accompanying recession here in Ontario it should be run again.

Labour Day was officially established in the U.S. by Pres. Grover Cleveland in 1887 as an alternative to the proposal to celebrate the worker on May 1, which Cleveland feared would be used, as many on the Left openly wanted, to commemorate the May 4 Haymarket riot in Chicago the year before. It was not however an invention of the establishment. According to Encyclopaedia Britannica:
The idea for such a holiday in the United States is attributed to Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and labor union leader who later cofounded the precursor of the AFL-CIO. In 1882 he suggested to the Central Labor Union of New York that a celebration be held to honour the American worker. Acting on this idea, about 10,000 workers paraded in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882, under the sponsorship of the Knights of Labor. The date of the celebration was chosen simply because it filled up the long gap between Independence Day and Thanksgiving.
What the article leaves out is that Mr. McGuire got the idea from Canada. The origins of Labour Day lie in a parade demonstration by workers on 15 April 1872 in Toronto to call for the abolition of then existing laws which decreed that trade unions were criminal conspiracies in restraint of trade. Those laws were finally repealed in that same year after a union parade in Ottawa on September 3 paid a visit to the home of PM John A. MacDonald. The April 15 march became an annual event though of no set date, though the Ottawa event would certainly have been an excellent one to commemorate. Mr. McGuire happened to see it on 22 July 1882 as an invited speaker, being the founder and general secretary of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters which had organized the previous year. The full story can be found
here, with the non-Canadian dimension here. The message to be taken from the origins of Labour Day is clear: it is a day not only to celebrate workers and their achievements and contributions to society but also their rights as workers, above all their right to unionize. This message is clear in the Labour Day most of the world celebrates, but in ours, among those who are not union members, that message has been lost. It is high time we who are not union members, i.e. the vast majority, recovered it.


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