The Labor Day holiday dates back to 1882 and the Central Labor Union in New York City. By 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in different industrial centers of the country as a “workingmen’s holiday.”
In the more than 140 years of Labor Day observance, Tony Flora of the Northern Indiana AFL-CIO said it has become a celebration of what working people have done across the country. While the first Monday in September marks a day off from work for most Americans, Flora explains that the work of labor and the progress labor has made in improving conditions has led to the ability to take time off.
“It’s about making a world which we’re able to fully be ourselves. And because our employment is at the center of our worlds—that’s what our standard of living is based on—and that forms our lives,” Flora explained, “if we’ve reached a point where it’s Labor Day and we can say ‘today’s a day I can spend with my family,’ then that’s exactly what we’ve been struggling for.”’
When asked what he has to say to people who oppose unions, Flora responded that many of the general workplace improvements—like eight hour work days—are thanks to organized labor, and as to be expected from the AFL-CIO, he disagreed with anti-union sentiments.
Elkhart’s Labor Day parade featured members of various labor organizations from throughout the area, from postal workers to Teamsters.
Among the parade marchers was democratic senator, Joseph Donnelly. Donnelly returned to Indiana from Washington D.C. late Sunday night and attended several Labor Day parades on Monday.
“I wanted to be here with all of our hard workers to share this event with them,” said Donnelly.
According to Flora, Donnelly is very supportive of organized labor, and the AFL-CIO was very excited that the senator chose to return home to Elkhart for the celebration. The senator said he was happy to have the opportunity to see and greet his constituents on the streets and spending time in Indiana.
“The message is jobs, jobs, jobs,” Donnelly added, “and that’s what Labor Day is about: is the dignity of work. I’ve often heard it said, one of the ways to pray is to work, and so that is what this is all about.”