For many Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer and as such is celebrated with barbecues, picnics and maybe a quick final vacation.

The first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882; some 10,000 workers assembled in New York City to participate in America’s first Labor Day parade. After marching from City Hall, past reviewing stands in Union Square, and then uptown to 42nd Street, the workers and their families gathered in Wendel’s Elm Park for a picnic, concert and speeches.

This first Labor Day celebration was eagerly organized and executed by New York’s Central Labor Union, an umbrella group made up of representatives from many local unions. It definitely emerged from the ranks of organized labor at a time when they wanted to demonstrate the strength of their burgeoning movement and inspire improvements in their working conditions. In 1894, Labor Day became a national holiday.

For Phi Taus who have grown up in regions with a highly industrial based economy, Labor Day has a more significant meaning – it is a reminder that we don’t have to do the hard, physical labor that our fathers, uncles, grandfathers and great grandfathers had to do to make a living and support their families.

As you celebrate the holiday, as you drive to the lake, as you eat your burger and corn on the cobb, as you relax with a day away from work – think about those who built the car, built the highway, built the buildings, planted the crops, harvested the crops, delivered the crops and all those who labor to make our lives better and our time off enjoyable.

It was John D. Rockefeller who said, “I believe in the dignity of labor, whether with head or hand; that the world owes no man a living but that it owes every man an opportunity to make a living.” We have been afforded a great opportunity, the opportunity of a higher education, the opportunity to use our brains rather than our brawn to accomplish great things for our selves, our schools, our employers and Phi Kappa Tau.

From the National Council and Executive Office staff, we wish you a safe, fun and relaxing Labor Day.


Photo credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA