A Labor Day message from President Ferguson

Published: September 4, 2020

Last updated on September 11th, 2020

Brothers and Sisters,

It may not be common knowledge to many Americans who have the opportunity to kick back and relax on Labor Day what the true genesis of the holiday is.

In the early 1880s, Labor Day was initiated by strong local union leadership in the New York-New Jersey region and was later adopted by some states.

President Grover Cleveland then signed Labor Day into federal law on June 28, 1894, to appease angry union workers engaged in the Pullman railroad labor strike that had been going on since May. Among the leaders of that strike was Eugene Debs, who later served as an officer of one of SMART-TD’s ancestor unions.

After a federal injunction against the workers, Cleveland sent thousands of armed troops into Chicago to break up the strike July 3, 1894. Days later, the situation turned deadly, with more than a dozen workers killed and many other people injured. The federal Department of Labor’s official history of Labor Day leaves out the part about blood being shed.

It was an election year in 1894. Even with the establishment of the holiday, Cleveland, a longtime foe of organized labor, was not re-elected.

In the present day, 126 years later, the circumstances of this year’s Labor Day are unusual to say the least. Much like prior holidays this year, we continue to deal with the risks of a global pandemic — the events that many of our members engage in to celebrate the labor movement and to show solidarity have been restricted or outright canceled.

Please do your best to enjoy those freedoms and, if you are lucky enough to have it, a day off. Please keep your safety and health in mind, along with this:

Unions changed the fate of the American worker. At a time when workers were devalued and mistreated, they provided a brotherhood to stand against big industry. This Labor Day, let us celebrate those who fought for and who continue to fight for a better life while working hard and pursuing their American dream. It is their and our perseverance in pursuit of fair treatment and the sacrifices we, the essential American worker, make on a daily basis that have resulted in the benefits that we enjoy.

Your SMART Transportation Division wishes you and your families a safe and enjoyable Labor Day.

Be safe and thank you.

Fraternally,

Jeremy R. Ferguson
President, Transportation Division