Just Another Holiday? Why Labor Day Matters (or Should)

American flag and tools. Happy Labor Day

Labor Day is a holiday that doesn’t seem to have much point any more beyond BBQ and a long weekend, but there is a reason for the holiday. Begun in 1894, Labor Day was intended to celebrate the labor union movement, which started in the 19th century and reached its height in the US at mid-20th century.

International Worker’s Day is celebrated worldwide on May 1st, but the date coincided too closely to the May 4, 1886 date of the infamous Haymarket affair in Chicago. Anarchists threw a bomb into the crowd as the police attempted to disperse a peaceful rally in support of labor rights. Seven policemen and at least four civilians were killed in the blast and subsequent gunfire, and dozens of other people were wounded. The Communist embrace of May 1st further discredited it in the minds of the American people. So we have Labor Day in September.

Take the Day Off

I grew up in a union household. Before her marriage, my mom worked in a factory and joined the union. When she turned 65, she started getting laughably small pension checks from the union. My dad was a lifetime member of the Brotherhood of Teamsters, and his union pension was a godsend in their later years. My nephew has worked construction since finishing high school and the only pension he will get will be from his union.

Management Style

Sadly, union membership in the private sector has dropped to 6.2% by Jan. 2020 (down from 7% in 2018), and surprise, surprise! wages are stagnant. Cause and effect, people. Large corporations have worked very hard to destroy labor unions, in part by supporting Right to Work (for Less) laws in states all over the country. I’d love to see a resurgence in union membership in this country. There’s a reason why workers in the old days wanted to organize, and some things never change. Only public sector unions remain healthy.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and leave you with a laugh.

Graveyard Workers Strike

Back to the barbie. Happy Labor Day!

Linda

Remembering the Landing Beaches of Normandy #D-Day

Arromanche Beach

Arromanches les Bains seafront beach and remains of the artificial harbour used on D-Day in World War II. Normandy France.

It has been seventy-six years since the Allies landed in France on D-Day, June 6, 1944, and still people travel to Normandy to see the beaches and visit the cemeteries.

Landing Beach Map

Map of the landing beaches at Normandy.

My father served in North Africa and Italy during World War II, so I never planned to visit the D-Day beaches, but now I have done so twice. Once on a cruise around the British Isles, and again in September 2016 on a tour of Northern France. Both times I came away humbled by the sacrifices made there.

The D-Day invasion was a massive undertaking, with over 156,000 American, Canadian and British forces involved. Code named Operation Overlord, it was the largest amphibious landing in history.

The invasion started the night of June 5th as paratroopers were flown into France behind the German lines. One of the most famous stories is about the paratrooper who landed in the charming town of Ste. Mere Eglise, where his parachute caught on the tower of the church in the middle of a fire. Visitors can view a replica of the trooper hanging from the tower.

church tower + parachute

Church tower at Ste. Mere Eglise.

One of the most impressive sites is at Pointe du Hoc, the location of German bunkers in between Omaha and Utah beaches that fired shells at the Americans during the landing. A contingent of Army Rangers climbed the cliffs to take the high ground. There’s a monument to them.

Ranger Monument

Ranger Monument at Pointe du Hoc, Normandy.

The stone plaque at the monument reads:

To the heroic Ranger Commandoes… of the 116th inf. under the command of Colonel James E. Rudder of the First American Division attacked and took possession of Pointe du Hoc.

The site has been pretty much left as it was after the battle, with the exception of the memorial and the grass and other plants that now grow there. It is a truly spectacular spot, with gorgeous ocean views. It’s hard to imagine what a hell it must have been seventy-six years ago.

Cliff at Pointe du Hoc

Cliff at Pointe du Hoc

The most moving part of the day’s tour was the visit to the American Cemetery at Colville, not the only D-Day cemetery. On the way, we passed the site of the first American cemetery, now reduced to a single memorial stone. The Colville site is a beautiful cemetery, meticulously maintained. Gazing out at the rows and rows of grave markers, most with crosses on top, but some with Stars of David or crescents, drives home the extent of the sacrifices made that long-ago day, and the mere thought of it brings tears to my eyes.

American cemetery

Grave markers at American cemetery, Colville, France

The generation that fought in World War II is rapidly dying off, sadly, some from COVID-19. I wonder if we will ever see their like again.

Linda