Serving Clovis, Portales and the Surrounding Communities

Labor Day more than we've made it

link Clyde Davis

Local columnist

Labor Day in the Northeast was, and perhaps still is, the beginning of the new school year. Before anyone reading this should become envious, let me hasten to add that the school year never ended until after Memorial Day. It balances out, in the end.

Be that as it may, Labor Day should be more than the symbolic ending of summer.

Labor Day was originally structured to be far more than a nationwide weenie roast and last jump into the swimming pool.

(The following insights are taken from

• Sept. 5, 1882, was the first official celebration of Labor Day, inspired and organized by a powerful Labor Union in New York City, then declared as a holiday by President Grover Cleveland.

• The time and framework may sound very different from our own context. Huge corporations had infiltrated and gained inordinate control in the halls of Congress and the offices of the executive branch in Washington, D.C. The lobbies controlled much of the legislative process, and the common working people were growing tired, even openly rioting and protesting, as they watched their own assets dwindling and their security unstable.

• Unions moved forward with negotiations, attempting to gain power and even out the balance, and one of the symbolic aspects of this progress involved the creation of the holiday Labor Day.

• In truth, the labor union had been around for some decades by the time that the struggles of the late 1800s.

• Unfair and potentially dangerous abuses continued, however, during the 19th century, and especially in the areas of women’s employment, child labor, and hours worked, it was necessary that some organization defend the rights of the working person. Unions gradually gained power, but that gain was often resisted at every turn.

Howard Zinn’s classic 1980 alternative view of history, “A People’s History of the United States,” clearly timelines the history of the labor movement, especially in the years during and immediately after the Civil War, and opens new insights into the conflicts that were embedded in that movement. In my case, there was a great deal of personal response, as many of the accounts focused on labor activities in western Pennsylvania, with its steel mills, coal mines and rail terminals.

The lessons to be learned may be obvious. Freedom from oppression in the work place should be protected.

Labor Day embodies values on which our country was built. Denying the same opportunities to others is, to me, is a denial of what we struggled and died to achieve.

Clyde Davis is a Presbyterian pastor and teacher at Clovis High School. He can be contacted at:

[email protected]

Rendered 05/04/2024 21:58