Meaning of Labor Day lost in end of summer holiday

September 06, 2010|By DAN DEARTH
  • Ron Small gives some slack to a cable from a trachoe so Gary Hendershot, left, and Derick Small are able to connect a large concrete pipe being used for a storm drain along Vale Drive.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer,

Many Americans have forgotten the meaning of Labor Day and view it as nothing more than a way to mark the end of summer, a group of workers said last week as they toiled in 95-degree heat at the Ruth Ann Monroe Primary School construction site east of Hagerstown.

Sheet metal worker Scott Clifford, 40, of Cumberland, Md., said he wished people would give the holiday the respect it deserves.

"It would be nice, but it's not going to happen," Clifford said. "Labor built this country."

Labor Day, held each year on the first Monday in September, was intended as a tribute to America's workers.

"It is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers," according to the U.S. Department of Labor's website at "It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.


"The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union," the website states. "The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on Sept. 5, 1883. In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a 'workingmen's holiday' on that date."

Rich Sharar, 36, an employee of Bragunier Masonry in Clear Spring, said he believed that the number of Americans who take Labor Day and other patriotic holidays for granted has decreased since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

"I feel that with everything going on in the Middle East, it touches a lot more people at home now than it used to," he said. "Most everyone I know has family or a friend over there."

Some workers at the construction site said they immigrated to the United States.

Fernandez Martinez, who moved to the United States 15 years ago from Guatemala, said he loves being in a country that gives people the opportunity to make an honest living.

"Labor Day is good," he said. "We have everything here ... medicine and police. (In Guatemala), they don't care how we live."

He said he has a Green Card and doesn't plan to return to Central America.

"The government takes better care of people in America," he said.

Sergio Mendez said he moved from El Salvador to the United States 20 years ago.

He said El Salvador also has a labor day holiday to honor workers.

"In our country, it's more for the laborers," he said. "For here, it (marks) the end of summer."

Mendez, 35, said he earned his U.S. citizenship five years ago and is proud to be an American.

"There are a lot of opportunities for work," said Mendez, who worked his way up to foreman of a 17-person construction crew. "You can do anything."

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