Labor Day is one of the great American ironies.
It is a day to celebrate and honor hard-working Americans, particularly union workers, and has been since 1894.
And we celebrate all that hard work…by not working.
Most Americans have the day off.
But before you fire up that grill and barbeque some brats, burgers, and dogs, take a moment to consider what the day means.
The holiday was started in 1882 as “a day off for the working citizens” by the Central Labor Union of New York City.
The CLU later broke up into individual unions, then came together again as what we today know as the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organization, or more simply the AFL-CIO.
Labor Day back then began with street parades and festivals filled with pro-union messages and speeches.
Congress adopted it as an official federal holiday in 1894.
Today, it’s basically just a day off work.
Of course there are some businesses that will be open.
It’s actually another of the ironies.
In those companies where front-line employees (even union employees) have to show up and open the doors on this day, you’ll often find the non-union bosses, managers, and owners taking the day off.
In some parts of the country, it’s the last chance to travel with the family before the start of school.
And while meteorologists, calendar makers, and Mother Earth herself all disagree, most acknowledge it as the end of summer.
Another irony of the day is the fact that unions, which were created to help people join together in a show of unity and strength, have become something of a political divider.
There are a number of people in the U.S. who fervently oppose unions as a concept.
It’s ironic that those who are anti-union won’t let their philosophical stance stop them from taking the day off for a holiday that was founded to celebrate unions.
It’s also a sort of irony that most people in the United States of America do not belong to a labor union, but the word “union” is a derivative of the word “united”.
In fact, the U.S. Constitution begins with the line “We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union…”
In Nevada, unions aren’t as strong as in other states, mostly because it is a “right to work” state.
In “right to work” states, you cannot force someone to join a union in order to get a particular job.
In other states, in order to get hired for certain jobs with certain companies, you must be a member of the union.
There aren’t a lot of unions in Mesquite.
While unions have become common in the gaming and hospitality industries in Las Vegas, Mesquite’s casino employees are not part of any union.
Most City employees are also union members, as are most teachers.
The best known local “union” is probably the Mesquite Police Officers Association.
It’s just one more irony that many members of Mesquite’s most visible union will not have Labor Day off, as police officers continue to patrol and protect the city while the rest of us relax.
So enjoy your day off.
In between flipping burgers, be sure to give a thought to the hard working Americans who helped make this country great.
Especially union workers.
After all, without unions, most of us would probably be reading this article today on our computers at work.
Have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
(This article was originally published in the Mesquite Local News on Sept. 1, 2008.)