WASHINGTON — Monday is the day to celebrate the American worker and his sacrifices and economic and social achievements.
You do know that, right?
If you don’t, you’re not alone.
Few recall the bloodstained origins of this holiday as we fire up the grill, throw on the burgers and dogs and turn on the U.S. Open tennis or maybe the Yanks, Mets or another ballgame.
And, in a sign of the times, the Sunday morning network news shows didn’t even offer their usual, token pre-Labor Day weekend spot for the head of the nation’s labor movement.
“No,” said AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka when I asked him. “No invitations this year.”
I told the former mine worker-turned-lawyer that there seems to be a precious lack of understanding of the holiday’s origins.
In fact, it stems from an awful confrontation in Chicago in 1894 that saw federal marshals and the Army kill 30 striking Pullman railroad strikers.
Soon after the Pullman walkout ended, Congress and President Grover Cleveland quickly passed and signed legislation for the holiday.
That history is rarely taught in schools and there are few full-time labor journalists anymore.
So with many millions jobless or involuntarily working part-time, we’ll have a few pro forma parades, but not much else.
“Unfortunately, I think your analysis is spot on,” said Trumka, who will take part in celebrations in his native Pennsylvania, including Pittsburgh, while President Obama does the same Monday with one in Milwaukee.
“From assembly lines to classrooms, across highways and steel mills, American workers strengthen the foundation of our country and demonstrate that our economy grows best from the middle out,” Obama says in his formal holiday proclamation.
Yes, but sadly, “There is virtually no labor writing anymore and little, if any, reporting on the working class or working class communities,” said William Serrin, a longtime NYU journalism professor and former New York Times labor writer.
“It could be a gold mine of important stories. It’s a shame,” he said Sunday.
Hey, anybody need another burger?