The History of Labor Day by Ted Bauman

Ted Bauman’s article on Labor Day, takes us through a forgotten reality.

     Continuing the tradition of his father, Bob Bauman, who has abundant knowledge of American politics and has traditionally published articles on occasions like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the 4th of July, Ted Bauman unveils the darker truth behind the public holiday “Labor Day”. Every year, the first Monday in the month of September is dedicated to commemorating the American labor movement. The contributions made by workers for the prosperity of the United States are honored. But Bauman descends and explores the layers deeper that have shaped the Labor Day recognition in America starting from the First Gilded Age:

After the Civil War, the Northeast society progressed from an agrarian society to largely an industrial powerhouse. This transformation came about when millions of Americans withdrew their farm work to find work in the following spaces: factories, mines, and railways. This resulted in the formation of an industrial working class in the U.S. for the first time.

The Gilded Age entailed a fair share of monopolies. Powerful firms took advantage of their positions and set prices at their discretion. Their massive control over their workers allowed them to domineer as much as they liked.

George Pullman, who ran the Pullman Car Company, catalyzed ultimate ‘Pullman Strike’. He forbade his workers any ownership of homes. He ran the town as a ‘paternalistic dictatorship’ (as described by Bauman). The Pullman Company monopolized all retail outlets, while Pullman’s monopoly also extended to his railway business.

In 1894, Pullman cut down workers’ wages and yet did not reduce the cost of rent, gas and water. This led the ARU, known as The American Railway Union, spearheaded by Eugene V. Debs, to organize a strike with the enraged workers. The Pullman workers who launched this strike, suspended the functioning of the Chicago railway system. The protest ultimately involved a number of 25,000 participants in 27 states.

The strike was falsely portrayed by the press as being organized by immigrants for the purpose of introducing socialist and anarchist ideas, from Europe, in America. In mid-July, on the orders of President Grover Cleveland, General Attorney Richard Olney called the US Army and United States Marshals, who subsequently shot 30 workers fatally and wounded 57. Despite this horrific turn of events, Olney, was still given a $10,000 annual retainer, in addition to his $8,000 federal salary, by the Chicago Burlington and the Quincy Railroad.

In the following events, Congress voted to assign the first Monday of September to Labor Day. This was signed into law almost a week after the strike ended by President Cleveland in hopes of assuaging nervous workers in other areas of the economy.

The reason why a date other than May 1st was chosen as Labor day was because Cleveland felt celebrating it on the same day as that of Europe would consolidate the anarchist and socialist movements in the US and also encourage solidarity between the U.S. and Canada.

Conclusively, the gilded age was riddled with powerful monopolies and businessmen, a structure established on inequalities, disparity of power, and exploitative political influence. The workers were extremely frustrated, let down and exploited by the imbalance of power. The political and economic affairs were also heavily tainted by scorn for immigrants.

The country only survived due to sensible reforms that were implemented to meet the needs of the majority of Americans. The conditions in the US after the World War II, were largely opposite to those of the Gilded Age, which is why the post World War II phase is the greatest phase of prosperity seen by Americans. A way to better this country is to learn history and seek lessons from it.


About Ted Bauman

Ted Bauman is situated in Atlanta, GA. He lives with his family and is currently serving as the editor of The Bauman Letter, Plan B Club and Alpha Stock Alert. Specializing in asset protection, privacy, international migration issues and low-risk investment strategies, Ted Bauman is always on the lookout for ways to stabilize financial security.