Labor Day falls on September 7, 2015, this year, and is also the day in history when the United States got its nickname Uncle Sam.
“Uncle Sam” is linked to Samuel Wilson, a meat packer from Troy, New York, who supplied barrels of beef to the United States Army during the War of 1812. Wilson (1766-1854) stamped the barrels with “U.S.” for United States, but soldiers began referring to the grub as “Uncle Sam’s.” The local newspaper picked up on the story and Uncle Sam eventually gained widespread acceptance as the nickname for the U.S. federal government.
Labor Day made its mark in U.S. history around the same time 70 years later, evolving, much like Uncle Sam, into a national symbol.
While, Uncle Sam is the personification of the U.S. and is generally regarded as a patriotic symbol, Labor Day symbolizes the power of the U.S. worker and the hard work undertaken to achieve the eight-hour day, a 40-hour work week, a fair wage, and a path to the middle class.
Both are a tribute to our nation in their own way and while Uncle Sam is a product directly of war, there were countless battles fought to achieve Labor Day.
We can’t forget those hard fought battles. We must honor the promise of a better future long sought by our founding union brothers and sisters. This Labor Day, we must resolve to look for the Union Label, to seek providers of union services in hotels and restaurants and post offices.
And we must take action, like they did, to fight back against the employers who would destroy our unions, who choose to move our jobs overseas. We must honor boycotts and picket lines and we need to help our brothers and sisters who are looking to organize a union in their workplace.
Just as important, we have to call for policies at every level of government that do the same. Our government should buy American products and services the same way foreign nations patronize theirs. Our government should fight for the rights of workers seeking a collective voice in their workplace.
We must remind everyone that we strengthened the United States and we built its middle class.
We face a challenge and an opportunity this year to support both union-made goods and services and expand the ideals of unionism to all Americans. This Labor Day buy union and shop union.
Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country. All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation.
— Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor