Happy Labor Day from GoCertify

Labor Day concept art eagle with tools

Salutations from all of us at GoCertify. It's a regular ol' Monday for most of the world. Here in the United States, however, where GoCertify HQ is located, a great many people are kicking back and taking it easy in honor of the, um, hard work, ingenuity and diligence of the legions of honest laborers whose energetic zeal made America great.


The United States did not come to Labor Day all at once. As the influence of trade unions and worker rights movements increased in the latter half of the 19th century, many people began to support the idea of a special worker holiday. The first formally legislated expression of this burgeoning sentiment occurred in Oregon, where a formal Labor Day holiday was established in 1887.


Twenty-nine other states followed suit over the next half-decade, but the federal government dragged its feet until 1894 when, well, everything always comes down to politics, doesn't it? The infamous Pullman Strike of 1894 provided the key impetus, beginning on May 11 when members of the American Railway Union staged a nationwide strike against the Pullman Company.


The strike eventually grew to include more than 250,000 workers in 27 states, causing widespread travel stoppages. When the federal government under President Grover Cleveland intervened, on the pretext of ensuring delivery of the mail, a number of striking workers were killed (30 in all) or injured (57). The ARU was eventually dissolved, and ARU leader (and future Socialist presidential candidate) Eugene Debs spent six months in prison.


While public sentiment generally supported President Cleveland, who had used a combination of U.S. Marshals and regular Army troops to break the strike, media coverage of events was largely sympathetic to the striking workers. Ultimately hopeful of assuaging the powerful organized labor movement, Cleveland promoted making Labor Day a federal public holiday.


Congress approved legislation to make Labor Day a federal public holiday, signed into law by Cleveland just six days after the Pullman Strike ended. So if you live in America, and you've ever wondered why the first Monday in September is a public holiday, now you know.


In 2016, organized labor continues to play a key role in American politics and also in the IT realm. Indeed, though they don't have precisely the same function and form as labor unions, many of the IT trade associations that dominate the certification landscape — groups like CompTIA, ISACA and (ISC)2 — are similar in a number of ways.


Many labor and economic theorists believe that the United States and other heavily industrialized nations are moving toward a future in which all manual labor and many higher functions will be performed by machines. And the skilled IT labor of the present is marching us ever closer to that work-free digital tomorrow.


There's a fair amount of disagreement as to whether that's a good or bad thing. If we do, however, eventually live in a future where every day is Labor Day — that is, a day off from work — then we'll largely have IT professionals (and IT itself) to thank for it. Happy Labor Day!

Would you like more insight into the history of hacking? Check out Calvin's other articles about historical hackery:
About the Author

GoCertify's mission is to help both students and working professionals get IT certifications. GoCertify was founded in 1998 by Anne Martinez.