Today marks the end of summer, the beginning of school and a nice holiday to share with family, friends and members of our community. Our American Labor Day reflects the story of what makes America different from the rest of the world, so let's take a closer look at this special day and its meaning.
First, it's a day to relax, to share with friends and family, and also a day to reflect on why America is such a special place and founded on such a wonderful set of ideals, with each involving basic human freedoms.
Rounding the seasonal mark tells the uniquely and evolving American story of our Labor Day holiday:
"Other holidays are celebrated for the day and the season itself — Thanksgiving, Christmas, the Fourth of July. But Labor Day, as most of us know it, is a holiday about what comes next.
No matter what it sounds like — and it always sounds like a day of nationwide community service — Labor Day is the last stop before we go careening into fall, a holiday in school-bus yellow. Once, in election years, it was the starting gun in the final campaign stretch, but those days are long over.
It’s surprising how much we need navigation marks like Labor Day in the calendar. The year somehow makes more sense when it’s segmented. The only seasonal cue some people need is ripe tomatoes and sweet corn, the knowledge that blueberries are over and peas are long gone. For others the U.S. Open will do, and for others it’s coming around the corner into the last 30 games of the regular baseball season.
For all the families delivering kids to college — and for the kids themselves — Labor Day is more than a buoy in the open waters of late summer: it is a sea change.
The distribution of holidays over the year appears almost entirely random — the result of historical occasion, legislation and, in one or two cases, long tradition. And yet it works out just about right.
Beginning now, on Labor Day, the holidays seem to come with greater frequency and greater significance, as if we needed to mark, in ever more important ways, our approach to the turning of the new year and the depth of winter. But that is looking much too far ahead on what is still, after all, a summer’s day."
Chicago Teachers Strike Ahead?
Chicago Teachers Strike: CPS, Union Negotiations Continue Over Holiday Weekend has a different take on the meaning of Labor Day in Chicago's system of public education:
"The holiday weekend hasn't been much of one for Chicago Teachers Union and Chicago Public Schools officials as their negotiations continue in an effort to reach a teachers strike-averting compromise.
On Saturday, Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. addressed the possibility of a teacher walkout during a news conference at Rainbow PUSH, according to CBS Chicago.
"It will affect street safety — the impact could be disastrous," Jackson told the station of a strike.
Meanwhile, at the Black Star Project's annual back-to-school Million Fathers March Saturday, organizer Phillip Jackson said he hoped the city and union alike will focus on what is best for the students going forward, WGN reports.
"There’s an old African proverb that says ‘when elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets trampled, so in this case when the Chicago Board of Education and the Chicago Teachers Union fights it’s the children who get trampled," Phillip Jackson told WGN.
On Thursday, the teachers union announced that their strike is set to begin Monday, Sept. 10, the earliest possible day union members could have chosen to stage a walkout. The union has been involved in a months-long standoff with the city over pay, class size and the longer school day.
"We have said from the beginning, we’re tired of being bullied, belittled and betrayed," Lewis told reporters Thursday. . . .
The teachers union is expected to stage a rally on Labor Day Monday in Daley Plaza.
Chicago teachers last staged a walkout in 1987."
European Version of Labor Day Isn't the Same as Ours ... Not Even Close
Today's Labor Day holiday in the U.S. is a day of relaxation and celebration for all Americans and therefore is radically different than the May Day/International Workers Day/Labor Day events that take place each year in Europe.
For one thing, our Labor Day always takes place on the first Monday in September while Europe's is on the first day of May.
But much more important is what the day means to us and to them. We don't have to fight for our rights against a monarchy, dictatorship or similar top down system. We've been a self governing free people since our country's founding. And in contrast to Europe, communism, socialism and class warfare have never really taken hold here as a strong political force.
And in America Labor Day is not just just for those who belong to what Europe refers to as the international "working class." Simply put, the 1848 Karl Marx written Communist Manifesto rallying cry "Workers of the World, unite," which urged the "proletariat" to stand up and fight for collectivism, never got a foothold in America, even during the Great Depression years.
And our blessed country has always been the better for basing its values and beliefs on the freedom and dignity of the individual. In the U.S. we don't practice class warfare. There is no Labor based political party here.
Of course, we do have labor unions, most prominently in the public sector, but those union members, public and private sector workers alike, as individuals vote Democratic, Republican and Independent, one and all.
Our personal political affiliations, if any, are not dependent on the kind of job we do or work we have. Communist and socialist parties are not part of the fabric of American politics.
Accordingly, Europe's Labor Day, aka May Day and International Workers Day, stands in stark contrast to what we know as Labor Day in America. It visually and dramatically illustrates the differences between us and them. Socialism versus individual freedom. Class warfare versus individual opportunity. The heavy hand of the state versus the freedom of the common man to live the American dream.
Summing Up ... In America We're All Members of the Middle Class
And that's the critical difference between the U.S. and Europe. Here we're all "middle class," we're all laborers and we all celebrate the end of summer and baseball, and the beginning of the school year and football season together. Except in Chicago, it seems.
I will never be smart enough to understand how public sector union leaders can convince "middle class" workers, as in the case of Chicago's teachers, to strike against themselves, since they're taxpayers, too. Or against their fellow neighborhood taxpayers and self governing citizens, since it pits taxpayers against taxpayers. Or against their kids and their neighbors' kids, since they're the ones being cheated.
But I guess I'm just old fashioned. Or maybe it's time to start a new fashion and quit milking our fellow Americans for all we can get from them. If we don't like the pay or the deal, maybe it's time to go get a new deal and leave the public sector's work force.
I say let's end public sector unions or at least their right to strike the public and injure our kids and our communities. After all, it's our country, it's our city, it's our government, it's our money and they're our children. And that's what sets us apart as Americans.
So today take the time to have a happy end of summer day celebrating, cooking out and generally enjoying the company of friends and family.
But don't forget to take a minute and give thanks for being lucky enough to be a free and self governing American. I'll do the same.