Setting aside a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
— Peter J. McGuire, General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners
History hasn’t solved whether carpenter Peter McGuire or machinist Matthew Maguire is the rightful author of Labor Day as a holiday, but both were present and taking credit at the first parade in New York City in 1892.
It was in 1894 that President Grover Cleveland signed the law making the first Monday in September a national holiday.
When I think about labor, I think about the men and women with whom I have had the privilege of serving hundreds of homeowners.
I think about the roofers and the painters and the men who can bend and shape metal.
I think about Juan and his friend Francisco, Lalo and his son Kevin, Saida and her mother, David and his brother Mario.
I can see the dirt on their hands and the sweat running down their faces, smiling faces.
In those faces I see the dignity Martin Luther King was celebrating. Here’s his quote in larger context:
“If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.”
“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
Today, we honor the workers—especially those who at the end of the day collapse on their beds, exhausted but proud. Knowing they gave everything they had. Ready to rise before the sun comes up tomorrow and do it all again.