On July 24, 1870, transcontinental rail service began in the United States, greatly reducing the time required to travel from coast to coast. The railroad helped to open up the Far West to settlers and homesteaders, like the characters in my current work in progress.
Labor Day is a holiday that doesn’t seem to have much purpose 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.
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.
Sadly, union membership in the private sector has dropped below 7%, 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.
I’ll get off my soapbox now and leave you with a laugh.