Saturday, September 5, 2015

Let's Celebrate Labor Day and Salute the Efforts of of U.S. Workers

By Daniel Applegate
President, Arlington Memorial Gardens

This coming Monday our office is closed. It’s a day off and of course everyone appreciates one of those.  But, as we all prepare for the day away from work – placing signs in our doors and recording the appropriate messages for our voice mail, I wonder how many people really understand just what Labor Day is all about.

While there’s no doubt that many, perhaps most, people understand that Labor Day is in some way connected to “labor,” I can’t help but think that the actual awareness is somewhat vague and fuzzy. If that is the case, then many of us are missing out on appreciating the full richness of what the day is intended to represent: the celebration of the efforts of U. S. workers who have added to our nation’s mosaic of economic, political and social greatness.
Why is Labor Day observed in September? Well, New York City workers unions were growing in the decades following the Civil War and they chose to hold a conference on the first Monday in September, 1882 because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. By 1887 the first Labor Day holiday was signed into law in Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Oregon and in 1894, Congress declared the first Monday in September as Labor Day. 

Some people and even some commentators tend to ridicule the acknowledgement of Labor Day as simply kowtowing to power of labor unions and suggest that to offset Labor Day, we should adopt a day of recognition for managers, administrators or capitalists. Yes, it’s true that collectively unions have been the central actor in the history of the labor movement; however, I don’t see it as an either/or proposition. Nor do I think that one needs to be a member of a union – or for that matter, even sympathetic to the cause of unions, to fully appreciate the importance of workers and the role they have played in the development of this country.

Here at Arlington, we acknowledge the role of all of our own “workers” leading the way for us to “make a difference that matters.” But I’d like to pay a special tribute to the members of our Interment Services & Grounds Maintenance Team. These employees are the ones who deal directly with the difficult, and sometimes daunting, weather conditions that enable us, as an organization, to provide services to the community and to those families we are so honored to serve. From the hottest, most humid, dog days of summer to those bitterly cold days of winter, they persevere and serve. And so it is on this Labor Day that we acknowledge and honor all of the hard “workers” here at Arlington and all across America.

Daniel Applegate became part of the Arlington Memorial Gardens organization in 2001 and has worked in the cemetery industry since 1981, including serving as Secretary/Treasurer and then as President of the Ohio state cemetery association.  He was appointed by Ohio Governor George Voinovich and served two terms on the Ohio Cemetery Dispute Resolution Commission, Ohio's cemetery oversight agency. He is a graduate of The Ohio State University holding a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Political Science.