A day to acknowledge the American worker

By Megan Harrell
Star Correspondent
For more than a century the first Monday in September has been earmarked as Labor Day. The holiday comes just as employees and students end summer vacations and begin to brace for the long months of work ahead.
Local businesses and schools will be empty Monday as their usual occupants can be found taking advantage of the sales the holiday affords. Those not searching for bargains will spend their day off picnicking at either Sycamore Shoals or Roan Mountain State Park.
It could be said that Labor Day is everyone's holiday. It is a time when every man and woman that is gainfully employed can sit back and appreciate their hard work, and the blessing of having a job.
Every employee's stock in the holiday sets it apart from others observed throughout the year. Founder of the American Federation of Labor, Samuel Gompers, has acknowledged Labor Day's uniqueness.
A statement on the labor organizations Web site Gompers outlines the ideology behind the holiday. "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation," Gompers said.
The recognition of all workers is precisely what founders of Labor Day had in mind when they proposed the holiday in 1882. History credits Peter J. McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, with suggesting the holiday. However, other documents state that machinist Matthew Maguire, the secretary for the local 344 of International Machinists in Patterson, N.J., set the idea in motion.
Regardless of who was responsible for the initial notion, the Central Labor Union adopted the idea and ordered a demonstration and picnic be held. The original proposal outlined how the day should be observed. The document states that a parade should be held that shows "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations."
Labor Day was celebrated in New York City for the first time on September 5, 1882. Other cities began to follow New York's lead, and by 1884 the first Monday in September was slated as the "working man's holiday," in many urban areas nationwide.
Congress passed an act declaring the traditional festivities a holiday in June of 1894.        
Over the years the ways in which Labor Day is celebrated has shifted from large-scale parades to individual household traditions. However, some large parades and speeches from union leaders still take place in more industrial areas.
In Carter County the working population can be expected to observe the day in a laidback manner. Much of the large working class population will spend Monday relaxing, or spending recreational time with friends and family.
Local workers have earned the right to enjoy their Labor Day, and have earned the respect of their community's leaders. County Executive Dale Fair has described the workers in Carter County as "outstanding," and members of the Elizabethton/Carter County Economic Development Commission look at the local work force as a strong asset when trying to attract new businesses to the area.
Those who established Labor Day intended it to honor laborers like those in this region, who go to work every day across the nation. More than 125 years later it is fitting that the nation pause to acknowledge all those responsible for the prosperity it enjoys. This weekend it is fitting that we honor the American worker.