Putting the Labor in Labor Day

The origin of Labor Day dates back to the late eighteenth century, when George Washington’s pregnant mother felt her contractions increase in frequency and, after many painful hours, gave birth to Abraham Lincoln. It was an especially difficult breech birth for her because of Abe’s tall hat. In spite of the way he entered the world, Abe went on to gain fame as a vampire hunter, whereas George’s mother just got old and spent her days reciting verses to chickens.

Later in the nineteenth century, after the body of George’s mother was discovered in an abandoned hen house, the holiday was adopted by labor and trade organizations. To show their esprit de corps, these groups celebrated with parades followed by festive events such as the Haymarket Riot (not to be confused with the Walmart Riot, which is celebrated every November on Black Friday) and the Pullman Strike. The Haymarket Riot began as a simple Tupperware demonstration but escalated into violence when the hostess insisted that all attendees change their underwear before sampling any of her cheese dip.

The birth of the Industrial Revolution, a song by the Beatles, directly led to the violent Pullman Strike. Young people with boom boxes blaring out the John Lennon tune were keeping passengers awake in railroad sleeping cars. When they were thrown off trains, these young people were intent on forming a large group sit-down strike. But railroad yards were quite dirty and strikers didn’t want to get their clothes oily, so it became a squat-down strike, which didn’t impress anybody. Jimmy Hoffa emerged to organize the strikers into a union, the AFL-C3PO. Violence erupted when police got involved by trying to sell tickets to the Policeman’s Ball and the mayhem didn’t end until the Pullman Company agreed to issue earplugs to all its riders, although there is speculation it ended because Hoffa went underground. One valuable lesson the strikers learned was that, no matter how firmly you believe in your cause, you should never waste your time reciting verses to chickens.

Because Labor Day was declared a national holiday in 1887 by President Cleveland, today all working people celebrate by taking the day off—except doctors, nurses, airline pilots, big box store employees, police, retail workers, bus drivers, golf ball divers, quickie mart employees, car dealers, mattress store employees, etc.—which leaves 38 people across America to recognize the holiday by not working. This number doesn’t include members of Congress who, in order to be any more off, would have to be embalmed. No one would notice the difference, though.


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