Celebrating Labor Day

Labor Day is coming up this weekend, and for most of us this marks the unofficial end of summer. This long weekend has become a traditional time for families to come together and picnic, barbecue and enjoy a local parade.  Even though school has already started, young people look at Labor Day as their final time of freedom before the school year gets under way in earnest.

For Mainers it marks the time when the summer tourists leave, and we can enjoy the late summer weather in relative solitude before the leaf watchers come in a few weeks.

Labor Day has significant history, which encompasses much more than this, and given all the fuss about the murals this year, I think it is appropriate to talk a little about the history of Labor Day as a holiday.

The first Labor Day in America was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City. There is something of a controversy regarding the “inventor” of the holiday. Some say that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, suggested a holiday to recognize those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” Others claim it was Matthew Maguire, a machinist who later became the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J. It became a federal holiday a few years later in 1894, after a particularly violent strike against the Pullman Company that resulted in the deaths of a number of workers. Congress passed the legislation making Labor Day a federal holiday shortly after the end of the strike.

The purpose of the holiday is to celebrate the social and economic achievements of America’s workers. As Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor once said, “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.”

Labor Day celebrates us all — our achievements and contributions to the strength, prosperity, and safety of our nation.

My focus is to recognize the important roles played by employees and employers in Maine, and on this Labor Day we especially need to celebrate the men and women who keep our country strong. I hope you all have an enjoyable Labor Day weekend and take a moment to pay tribute to workers across the nation, especially here in Maine.

As always, if there is anything I can do for you, or if you have any thoughts or questions about state government, please call me at 287-1515 or visit my website, www.mainesenate.org/diamond to send me an e-mail.

Senator Bill Diamond is a resident of Windham, and serves the District 12 communities of Casco, Frye Island, Raymond, Standish, Windham and Hollis.

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