Although the first Labor Day in 1882 was a local celebration, and it did not become a national holiday until June 1894, workers still had very few rights like a minimum wage or a 40-hour work week. In response to advocacy, largely from unions, those rights weren’t guaranteed until 85 years ago when the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) was passed in 1938.
Some of us may remember stories our parents told us about the Depression but there were also stories about the 70-hour work week, violent suppression of strikes, or child labor when children as young as seven were put in dangerous working conditions. The FLSA and the unions made both our national prosperity and the middle class possible.
Like some other holidays when we should be observing their true meaning, Labor Day has become a day of commercial activity as well as one of family get-togethers. Farm workers did not get any protection until 1983, and it remains minimal. So as we enjoy our food, we should remember who picked it and continue our struggle for social justice.
Prayer for the Day
Because we need to feel your presence in our lives, Holy One,
We ask that you embrace us, reminding us that we are not alone;
Because we seek an inner truth not found in the world around us,
We respond to your call to be witnesses of your peace.
May we find joy in our commitment to your gospel,
And peace in our faithfulness to your word.
In the name of the One who is the example of faithfulness,
Even Christ Jesus our Lord, Amen.
Thoughts for the Day
To be free, the workers must have a choice. To have choice they must retain in their own hands the right to determine what conditions under which they will work.
- Samuel Gompers, founder AFL in 1881 (1850-1924)
From the dawn of civilization, the toiler has incessantly striven to free himself from the degrading conditions which results from man’s enslavement by man; and it is in evidence of man’s divine origin that he has never foregone the struggle, nor lost the hope of ultimately attaining the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
- A.A. Bablitz, early 20th century attorney and advocate for unions
Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look the Israelites are more numerous and powerful tan we. … Therefore, they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor.
Exodus 1: 8, 11