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  • September 3rd, 2021

    Summer months are bookended by Holiday weekends of Memorial Day and Labor Day, and while saying happy Memorial Day isn’t really appropriate, saying Happy Labor day is.

    What exactly is Labor Day?

    Labor Day is a holiday to celebrate the working class. The first labor day parade was held in 1882 on September 5th in New York City. Labor Day was not an official holiday at this time, the parade was actually a one-day strike by workers to demonstrate dissent to the working conditions at the time. Signs carried in the parade called for “Less Work and More Pay”, limiting the workday to 8 hours as well as the end to the use of unpaid convict labor. Many Americans were working 12 hour days, seven days a week, in physically demanding, low wage jobs with unsafe and difficult conditions. Child labor was legal, with many young children working the same long hours for only pennies, in mines, factories and farms.

    Labor Day officially became a national holiday in 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law on June 28th proclaiming Labor Day a national holiday. Historians often recognize that the support of the holiday was politically motivated, where ten years earlier the labor movement was only beginning to gain momentum and influence. At the time the President signed the bill, the Pullman strike was impacting all rail traffic in the Midwest. If you look at the history books, the Pullman strike went on from May to July of 1894, and was the first time the federal government responded to a labor strike with the use of an injunction to break the strike eventually leading to the national troops firing on rioters killing between 4 and 30 individuals and wounding significantly more. It was during this crisis, that the president declared Labor Day a national holiday.

    Internationally, May Day, May 1st, is the workingman’s holiday, but within the US, it is often associated with protests that focus on the arrest of socialists, anarchists and unionists with ties to the Haymarket Demonstration on May4, 1886.

    More recently, Labor Day typically marks the end of the summer season with children back in school, a time to enjoy the outdoors a little longer with barbeques and picnics. Thanks to the labor movement, we have the 8 hour workday, children are in school and not on the factory floor and many other work related benefits are ours.

    At Cook’s we celebrate the chefs and foodservice professionals that we serve as well as the workers that build the foodservice equipment and supplies we distribute, the truck drivers and shipping and receiving personnel that move the restaurant equipment pieces from factory to foodservice kitchen and everyone else in between who labors to make it all happen.

    Happy Labor Day!