News & Events

Reflections on Labor Day

From the Massachusetts Nurse Newsletter
September 2008 Edition

By Joe Twarog
Associate Director, Labor Education & Training

Labor Day was first celebrated as a holiday in 1882 by the Knights of Labor with a parade in New York City. It was designed with the intent of celebrating trade and labor organizations for the workers and their families, as well as celebrating the value and dignity of all work. Congress approved it as a federal holiday in 1894. Today, it marks the traditional end of summer vacations and the beginning of the school year. It is generally observed with labor breakfasts, parades, picnics and relaxation.

Here are some labor-related thoughts to consider as we move from summer to fall and reflect on the season’s recent conclusion.

“What Does Labor Want? We want more school houses and less jails, more books and less guns, more learning and less vice, more leisure and less greed, more justice and less revenge … We want more opportunities to cultivate our better nature.”

~ Samuel Gompers
First president, American Federation of Labor


“The essence of trade unionism is social uplift. The labor movement has been the haven for the dispossessed, the despised, the neglected, the downtrodden, the poor.”

~ A. Philip Randolph
Labor Leader


“Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of their right to join the union of their choice.”

~ Dwight D. Eisenhower
U.S. President, 1953-61


“Every advance in this half-century—Social Security, civil rights, Medicare, aid to education, one after another—came with the support and leadership of American Labor.”

~ Jimmy Carter
U.S. President, 1977-81


“When fewer workers have unions, the standard of living falls for everyone and the gap between the rich and poor grows.”

~ John Sweeney
President, AFL-CIO


“Labor unions are the leading force for democratization and progress.”

~ Noam Chomsky
Linguist & political activist


“The next generation will not charge us for what we’ve done; they will charge and condemn us for what we have left undone."

~ Mother Jones
Labor and community organizer


“If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.”

~ Lane Kirkland
President, AFL-CIO, 1979-95