Labor Day's origins often overlooked on holiday

8:01 PM, Sep 2, 2013   |    comments
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For many people Labor Day conjures up thoughts of cookouts and the unofficial end of summer.  But the roots of this holiday are all business as one of many episodes in the longtime fight to give hard-working people rights on the job.

On Monday, Cummins Crosspoint in Knoxville closed up shop for Labor Day.  Therefore, the mechanics took a holiday from the picket lines where they have been on strike for seven weeks now.  The strike is part of what the workers call a fight for better pay and health benefits.  They told 10News the current health plan has an $8,000 out-of-pocket annual deductible that must be met before insurance covers any expenses for doctor visits or prescription medicine.

It was worker strikes and the labor movement more than 120 years ago that contributed to the formation of Labor Day in the first place.

"Labor Day is very important to me. All I think about is what our forefathers accomplished for us that I'm benefiting from today," said Wes Trotterchaud, president of Teamsters Local 519.

Trotterchaud says the true meaning of Labor Day is a mystery to many Americans. The first official Labor Day started in New York in 1882 to celebrate the working man.  It was soon adopted by other states.  Labor Day became a National holiday in 1894 shortly after the violent Pullman Railroad Strikes that killed 30 workers.

"People died for this holiday. People should take that serious," said Trotterchaud.

Labor Day constitutes a yearly tribute to the hard-working men and women whose daily grind the rest of the year makes our country better.

Knoxville has celebrated Labor Day through the years with everything old-time parades to the current explosive entertainment of Boomsday.  Another tradition that has recently taken shape is the placement of sunflowers on a fence in Krutch Park in Downtown Knoxville.  The Labor Day Sunflower Project symbolizes the unification of all of Knoxville's disparate parts and the rewards of individual labor.

Whatever people may choose to do as they rightfully enjoy the holiday, Trotterchaud says people should take a moment to honor those who sacrificed to create the holiday and establish the rules employers follow the rest of the year.

"Organized labor and the labor movement provided things such as the 40 hour work week, overtime pay, vacations, and holidays. We just take it for granted. We think that we're supposed to have vacation days. We think that we're supposed to have holidays. We wouldn't have what we have today if it weren't for our forefathers. It's about them. It's about what the accomplished for us and we should be celebrating it today."

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