The origin of Labor Day is no different from much of our nation’s history – there’s a dispute over how it actually happened. Some argue it was first proposed by Matthew Maguire, a machinist and Secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. Others say it was proposed by Peter McGuire, a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, after observing an annual labor celebration in Canada. Either way, Labor Day was born out of labor unrest, out of strikes and protests. President Cleveland signed the holiday into law to appease the nation’s workers in an election year.
Though today we don’t often hear of labor strikes in the U.S., especially those resulting in violence, there are legions of dissatisfied workers; maybe not toiling in factories, but wilting in gray cubicle farms void of natural light, breathing recycled air, and asking themselves at what point their life came to this and if there is any way out.
Along with the obligatory family cookouts, I would suggest we take time this Labor Day to congratulate ourselves for our achievements through work, but also ask ourselves that if this was the last Labor Day we experienced, would we look back at our lifetime of work and feel satisfied. Would we wish we had done something differently? I would suggest we think of Labor Day less as a day of appreciation we’re due and more as an opportunity to think about how to create a life of work we don’t feel like we need a day to escape from.