Monday, September 3, 2007

happy labor day!

the united states has celebrated labor day since the 1880s. the central labor union created labor day as a day off for the working person in 1882. in 1894 an act of congress passed which established the day as an official federal holiday in order to "honor American labor and foster the feeling of brotherhood among the different crafts. " labor day may be the only official u.s. holiday which has its roots in the american labor struggle. traditional celebrations include parades by trade unions, speeches and political demonstrations. some folks are still mindful about the intent of the holiday, but over the years labor day has evolved into a celebration of the end of summer with cookouts, gatherings, and of course the ubiquitous shopping extravaganza .

the picture above is a favorite of mine from my cache of old family photos. in this picture my great-grandfather "george 'zedo' kravitz I" proudly sits, pipe in mouth and miner's cap on his head; he is surrounded by other men from the mine, many of whom are raising mugs in a toast. like most of the pictures in my stash of family treasures, there is no accompanying narrative which leaves us to simply fill in the blanks. perhaps these guys are raising a toast to labor day and being off work the next day. like all of my great-grandparents, "zedo" immigrated to the united states from 'austria-hungary' to make a better life for their families. while this zedo worked in the mines, my other relatives found work with the railroads and in factories.

when I was in college one of my fields of study was economics. one of my passions within the discipline was labor history. I am sure I was drawn toward this because it connected with my own family's story. and also because of all the stories I heard as a child of the labor struggles which took place in the region of the pennsylvania my family settled in after arriving in the united states. some of the family stories were 'peopled' with the likes of 'wobblies' or the 'IWW,' 'the molly maguires,' and the united mine workers. many stories focused on incidents like the infamous 'lattimer massacre' and other tragic and difficult events which highlighted clashes among the social classes. as an impressionable and sensitive child stories like these revealed some of the problems and issues with structures of inequality and power and helped shape me into the type of adult I am today. "give me a child until he (sic) is seven and I will give you the man. (sic)"

illustration of a IWW propoganda sticker. from We Shall Be All: A History of the Industrial Workers of the World by Melvyn Dubofsky


Unknown said...

Hey! My great grandparents were also Austro-Hungarian.

You know, the sad thing about so many holidays is as time evolves we forget the real reasons for celebration.

Dumdad said...

I love old photos like this. I clicked on it and it enlarged (they don't always) and it's fascinating to try to make out the details: the moustaches, the shoes, the styles of suit, the hats etc.

As time moves on, more and more of these photos will be lost. Putting them on your blog keeps the memories going and that particular moment frozen in time for always.

msb said...

what a treasure that poster is.

lettuce said...

well, social inequality is growing again over here. just seems to be such an uphill struggle.

that is a great photo.

mouse (aka kimy) said...

av - it was a large,large area now made up of so many (ever changing number) countries. my family 'identifies' with being 'slovak' (with a tad of 'czech' thrown in from one of the greats)

dd - I also love old photos great idea to keep these images alive by putting them up in blogs. with that 'advice' in mind I put up another today! thanks!

inequality and injustice go hand in hand, and we should never stop the struggle!

namaste friends.