Labor Day: the outcome of an organized labor movement determined to disrupt what they believed to be an unjust and exploitive economic system. It was a social justice movement.
Labor Day began out of a protest, resulting in more protests that disturbed the status quo. The economy was disrupted. Some businesses, like railroads, were burned down. Tragically, in some circumstances people died.
As the movement took shape its organizers and protestors were called unpatriotic and criminal. They were dismissed, demeaned, dehumanized, and criminalized. But they pressed on.
Now we celebrate Labor Day as part of the “American story.”
Labor Day reminds me that a movements for social change must persist. Its greatest resistance will always be the neighbors of its own generation. In time, if the movement has life, the resistance will give way to some among future generations. They will rise up to embrace it for what it is. Whether it’s selective amnesia or simply not knowing, the benefit of the movement is eventually recognized. In time, the origin story, with all its struggle, also gets lost. When that happens society is poised to repeat the same behaviors when new movements arise crying out for social justice.
I’m thankful for Labor Day, a holiday I once thought was random and obscure. I am learning to see the cost, the struggle, and the purpose. Once again I am reminded how the better side of our nation has always been built on the backs of movements for social justice.