`Taking it easy’ today’s hard-earned privilege for American worker | PostIndependent.com

`Taking it easy’ today’s hard-earned privilege for American worker

After a long, hot summer filled with rigorous drudgery, many local workers are looking forward to kicking back today and enjoying Labor Day 2002.

The break is well deserved, and hard-fought. While many see Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer, it began as a way for labor unions to show their appreciation for those who get the job done.

“I’ll probably be sitting at home, taking it easy,” said Lou Faber, a construction worker who is helping to build Mesa National Bank’s new office building on 27th Street and Grand Avenue in Glenwood Springs.

“It’s too crowded to go anywhere on a weekend like this,” Faber added.

During a momentary break from the hard work of building scaffolding, Faber’s co-worker, Marco Antonio, said he plans to do the same.

“I have no plans,” he said.

Celebrated each year on the first Monday in September, according to an explanation by the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union, the Department of Labor notes. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on Sept. 5, 1883.

“I’m going to play baseball; I’m in a Hispanic league,” said Ignacio Gallegos, another construction worker at the Mesa Bank building. “We’re in the playoffs. Last year we made the finals.”

Gallegos, incidentally, said on Friday he was glad to hear his counterparts in the major leagues decided to call off a threatened nationwide baseball strike.

In 1884, the first Monday in September was deemed the official date to celebrate the holiday. The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a worker’s holiday on that date.

The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in several cities throughout the United States, according to the Department of Labor.

Franz Stone, an Aspen Diggers employee helping with the demolition of the former locations of Ski and Sport Swap and Charm School Boutique at Seventh and Grand in Glenwood Springs, said he plans to keep busy over the long weekend.

“I’m hiking Mount Sopris on Sunday. Then on Monday I’m going to see Willie Nelson,” he said.

To add to that, Stone said he plans to do some dirt bike riding on Saturday.

The first state bill introduced to officially recognize Labor Day was in the New York legislature, but the first state to pass such a bill was Oregon, on Feb. 21, 1887. Four more states – including Colorado – created the Labor Day holiday at the state level that year.

On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

The demolition site where Stone worked on Friday was a mass of bricks, concrete and wood. To keep the choking dust down, the pile had to be constantly sprayed with water from a nearby fire hydrant.

Carlos Munoz, another demolition man, stood stonefaced at the corner of the downtown job site. He kept a hand and an eye on the fire hydrant, adjusting the flow of water with a large wrench. Munoz said he also plans to take the three-day weekend off and spend it with his family – which he proudly explained includes eight grandchildren.

“Maybe we’ll go somewhere, but I don’t know yet,” he said.

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