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Labor Day 'a celebration of our work force'

September 02, 2012|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com
  • Will Seilhamer, president of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Cumberland Valley Chapter, discusses labor issues in one of the trade school's labs.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Some might think of Labor Day as the official end of the summer, but for others it is a day to honor what working people have done for the country for more than a century.

“It’s a celebration of our work force,” said Will Seilhamer, president of Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., Cumberland Valley Chapter, or ABC CVC. “All the men and women across the country, regardless of their affiliations, should be recognized for the hard work they put in that everybody kind of takes for granted.”

ABC, according to its website at www.abc.org, is a national association with 74 chapters, including the one in Cumberland Valley, and more than 22,000 firms related to construction.

Seilhamer started his training in the ABC CVC plumbing apprenticeship program, and his former business, J&W Mechanical, used apprentices from the program. He said he can appreciate the contributions workers have made to the country from both sides, as a worker and an employer.

“It actually takes hands-on to build your office buildings, your schools, your churches and medical facilities,” he said. “It’s important to recognize what Labor Day stands for, and all the effort and trials our labor forces went through the last 100 years.”

As many families and individuals enjoy cookouts, vacations and taking the day off work, there are others who are on the job on the holiday.

Alan Crosen of Waynesboro, Pa., who has five children, works seven days a week as a mechanic and said people should not forget what the holiday is about.

“It’s a day for people to recognize the people who work for a living and are trying to better the country,” said Crosen, a veteran. “If people actually did appreciate it, it would be nice.”

Crosen, 40, who works at A&M Auto on Jonathan Street in Hagerstown, said he will be at work Monday. He said the amount of work many people have to put in every day to make a decent living, as well as the workers in the past who have fought to make working conditions better, should be appreciated on the holiday.

“We have people who struggle at work every day and still aren’t able to pay their bills,” he said. “People like my father, doing the same thing I do now, made it easier for people like myself. ”

Recognized as an annual tribute to the contributions of American workers to the country, Labor Day was first celebrated by the Central Labor Union on Tuesday Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, according to the U.S. Department of Labor website at www.dol.gov. The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in cities across the country to have a holiday for working citizens.

As the idea spread, Oregon became the first state to pass a law recognizing the holiday on Feb. 21, 1887, and by 1894, 23 states began observing the day. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making it a legal holiday nationwide on the first Monday in September.

Hagerstown resident Richard Gilbert, a firefighter for the Hagerstown Fire Department, said Labor Day should recognize what workers in many industries have to go through on a daily basis.

“We’ve made a lot of progress over the years,” he said. “Labor Day to workers is like what Memorial Day or Veterans Day would be to the military.”

Gilbert, 47, said he would be off Mondahy, but said many others with jobs similar to his will be hard at work.

“It’s a day you’re honoring people like the fire services and the police,” he said. “Even though everybody else gets off, we don’t. It’s important to look at how we do our jobs and what we do.”

Richard Carder, business manager of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local Union, said people should consider on Labor Day what workers have fought for in the past.

“Years ago, they were made to work 10, 12 or 14 hours a day and seven days a week,” he said. “Imagine if people had to do that today. Labor Day is about what the workers before us have done.”

Carder also said not everybody stops to think about what the working class has accomplished in the United States.

“Try to think about what this country would be like without your average working class,” he said. “We’ve had it good for so long that people have a tendency to forget why we’ve had it good.”

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