I've been enjoying the Labor Day Weekend so much that I've started wondering whom in labor I should thank. Are we honoring Jimmy Hoffa? Harry Bridges? David Dubinsky? Joe Hill, the pie-in-the-sky guy with the Wobblies?
Nobody I asked knows. So I looked it up: The secretary of Local 3344
International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the
holiday in 1882. Others argue the general secretary of the Brotherhood
of Carpenters and Joiners first suggested a day to honor those "who from rude nature
have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." It wasn't until
1903 that the American Federation of Labor included Labor Sunday to go
with Labor Monday, and both days merged into the end-of-summer weekend
we know and love.
The ignorance of holiday etymology is widespread. A lot of people
have forgotten Memorial Day Weekend honors the 600,000 who died in the
Civil War. Even worse is obfuscation of so-called Presidents' Day
Weekend, formerly Washington's Birthday.
It was bad enough when to most young Americans it meant birthday
sales at the mall. Then they made matters murkier by including Lincoln's
Birthday. But what about the other 42 presidents? Were they chopped
Calvin Coolidge especially deserves recognition. The 30th president really got it when he explained "the chief business
of the American people is business." In one of his more long-winded
observations, Silent Cal noted, "When more and more people are unable to find work,
unemployment results." That's the kind of understatement you have to
respect -- making, therefore, the day Coolidge died (Jan. 5) a promising
extra day off from work.
I will leave it to historians to argue the moot question of which of
the other slighted chief executives deserves a three-day weekend of his
own. Not moot is the glaring need for more three-day weekends.
A cursory examination of the calendar on my day off revealed there are still 46 weeks with the lesser-rated two-day weekend.
Americans are history-impaired. We have a generation that has grown
up thinking that Early American History means Elvis. We know more about
Lady Gaga and Snooki than Rutherford B. Hayes, James Buchanan, and
Warren Harding, all of whom deserve three-day holidays, for starters.
Whether they bat from the left or right side of the plate, all
Americans can agree there is a need for more three-day weekends. I
propose a bipartisan Congressional commission study the problem with an
eye toward calendar revision.
There is no shortage of institutions or individuals for what is the
nation's highest honor. In the spirit of bipartisanship, the commission
can explore the views of citizens in favor of more time off from work.
It would seem a good place to start would be a three-day weekend
honoring Capital. Such equal time is especially needed now, to
counteract the pernicious influence of unions, which, if governors of
states like Wisconsin and Ohio have it right, is what ails the nation's
economy. I'd get the ball rolling with Manufacturer's Day Weekend.
Among the two obvious choices for contributions equal to the AFL are
the US Chamber of Commerce and the National Association of
Manufacturers. Let their PR firms fight out which is making the greatest
contribution to the nation's wellbeing.
The honor also could go to an individual. I'd like to celebrate a
three-day Jeff Immelt Weekend. Immelt is the CEO of the nation's largest
conglomerate, General Electric
(NYSE: GE). Not only is he also a friend of President Obama and the
green movement, but just this summer his company announced it's moving its global X-ray headquarters from Waukesha, Wis. to Beijing, China. Now that is Ecoimagination! At least equaling the negative impact of labor.
Nominations are still open.