To most of us here in America, this past Monday was spent clinging to savoring what many consider the last bit of summer. These days Labor Day signifies a coveted 3-day weekend, great deals, and even the end to wearing white. But do you know why Labor Day began? It may surprise you to learn that its origin began right here in Chicago, it’s aftermath inspired countless countries around the world, and it was instrumental in the Civil Rights Movement.
Pullman, founded in 1880 by sleeping railcar pioneer George Pullman, today is known as a south side Chicago neighborhood. However, in May of 1884 it became the epicenter of the growing labor movement. The once sleepy town, not annexed by the city of Chicago until 1889, was built for Pullman’s workers (or to serve Pullman, depending on who you ask).
An economic depression in 1883 caused Pullman to cut his worker’s wages, but not their rent, which was automatically deducted from their paychecks. Eventually they walked off the job in protest, prompting a nationwide transportation nightmare. According to The Atlantic, this was America’s first true nationwide strike, a major milestone for the labor movement.
However, under pressure from The US Postal Service and the railroad industry, to President Grover Cleveland it was a national disaster. He sent in troops, resulting in rioting, arson and casualties, causing it to be named “bloodiest strike in history.”
In the aftermath President Cleveland’s popularity diminished, and the only solution to this election-year catastrophe was to offer a Labor Day olive branch. Although it did not help him secure a second term, Pullman porters went on to form the first all-black union, the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. It was the formation of this union in 1925 that was instrumental in the advancement of the Civil Rights Movement.
Although it’s not considered a national holiday in Denmark, May 1st is similarly recognized as International Worker’s Day (also known as May Day). Thousands gather at Copenhagen’s Faelledparken on this day to commemorate the historic struggles and gains made by workers and the labor movement, stemming from the Pullman strike and Chicago’s Haymarket Riot of 1886. There are political speeches from various Danish parties and, selvfølgelig (of course!), singing, dancing, and drinking. Which makes sense when you consider that Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark and Norway are five of the six most unionized nations in the world.
Cooking is a labor of love, and there are only 18 days left to enter our September giveaway! The winner will take home 3 of their very own Danish cookbooks!
Upcoming Events – Don’t Miss!
Saturday, September 26th – The Danish Home Foundation’s Annual Benefit
Wednesday, September 30th – The DAAC & The Danish Home 15th Annual Golf Outing