Labor Day Provides a Chance for Reflections, Lore

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Labor Day

I hope your 2013 Labor Day is thoughtful, fun and safe. Here’s the blog post that I wrote last year about Labor Day, and the main points remain true. But keep in mind that many workers’ protections are being eroded by business in pursuit of profit, and nonunionized workers generally fare worse than those who belong to unions. So as you go about your business – whether marching in a Labor Day parade, traveling safely through the last weekend of summer, enjoying quiet time at home, or even working – think about your life situation and reflect on those workers who have gone before to provide a better quality of life for workers today, regardless of job situation. I know I will do just that.

Happy Labor Day! What are your plans? And why do we have this day off of work? Is it to celebrate summer ending and school starting? In Nebraska, it might be to celebrate what is often the first weekend of Husker football and the last weekend of the State Fair.

But are there other reasons? Just like the origins of workers’ compensation, we can attribute the fact that we have a holiday to the American worker.

Labor Day – the first Monday in September – celebrates the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of America,” according to

Sources explain in varying amounts of detail the controversy over who founded Labor Day and how the “workingmen’s holiday” was celebrated on that day. But what isn’t up for debate is that unions and their workers were a very important part of developing Labor Day to celebrate workers’ contributions.

I am pleased to share that the state of Nebraska was actually one of the first to celebrate Labor Day and had passed legislation recognizing the holiday by 1890. Other states that were Labor Day pioneers included Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania.

There are some romantic notions about how Labor Day came into being, and some sources even gloss over some of the gritty details, but just like the beginnings of worker’s compensation, the “way we used to be” in this nation was not ideal for many workers. Politics was involved in Labor Day’s recognition as a federal holiday. “Conceived by America’s labor unions as a testament to their cause, the legislation sanctioning the holiday was shepherded through Congress amid labor unrest and signed by President Grover Cleveland as a reluctant election-year compromise,” according to Folks were frustrated with the way President Cleveland stopped a workers’ strike involving workers who built and used Pullman railroad cars by deploying troops after Cleveland made the strike a federal crime. So to appease people, specifically Congress, six days after the Pullman strike was broken, the president signed the bill creating Labor Day, but he was not re-elected anyway.

Originally, Labor Day celebrations had a rhythm, purpose and pattern, including: “a street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations’ of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday,” according to

Although this model hasn’t been followed throughout the decades, think of the powerful imagery in the quote below of workers uniting after a typical work week that lasted much longer than 40 hours.

“In 1898, Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, called it ‘the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed…that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it.’”

I know I’ve said it before, but I will say it again, our commitment to working families and workers, like those who were vital to the success of the first Labor Day, is why we do the work that we do and have a passion for it. So I appreciate the opportunity to reflect on this holiday for workers in the United States.

All of us at Rehm, Bennett & Moore would like to express our gratitude to the American workers who have built and are building this country. Have a relaxing and inspiring Labor Day, friends, however you choose to celebrate it!

The offices of Rehm, Bennett, Moore & Rehm, which also sponsors the Trucker Lawyers website, are located in Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska. Five attorneys represent plaintiffs in workers’ compensation, personal injury, employment and Social Security disability claims. The firm’s lawyers have combined experience of more than 95 years of practice representing injured workers and truck drivers in Nebraska, Iowa and other states with Nebraska and Iowa jurisdiction. The lawyers regularly represent hurt truck drivers and often sue Crete Carrier Corporation, K&B Trucking, Werner Enterprises, UPS, and FedEx. Lawyers in the firm hold licenses in Nebraska and Iowa and are active in groups such as the College of Workers’ Compensation Lawyers, Workers' Injury Law & Advocacy Group (WILG), American Association for Justice (AAJ), the Nebraska Association of Trial Attorneys (NATA), and the American Board of Trial Advocates (ABOTA). We have the knowledge, experience and toughness to win rightful compensation for people who have been injured or mistreated.

This entry was posted in employment law, history of workers' compensation, holidays, Uncategorized, Workers' Compensation and tagged , .

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