A history of Labor Day

Happy Labor Day and a tip of the hat to all the workers out there.
Labor Day became an official holiday in 1894, which means we have been celebrating workers for 125 years.  
I am finishing a book called Radium Girls. It deals with the young girls who painted luminous watch dials in the early 1900s. The work became very profitable during World War I as the demand for luminous dials and watches grew because of the war.
The girls, some as young as 15, used radium as a basis for the luminous paint. They would dip their paint brush in the mixture, then put it in their mouth to sharpen the point, then paint the numbers.
The company, and its doctors, said that radium was safe. After several of the women became ill, the company argued that they became ill after working at the plant, so they are not entitled to compensation.
There was also a plant in Ottawa, and despite the owners knowing the danger, they did not warn the girls.
Several incurred radium poisoning and suffered horrible prolonged deaths. The company fought their claims tooth and nail because it would hurt the bottom line.
Thankfully, laws have changed. Our government needs to be ever vigilant about allowing poisonous materials into out bodies, regardless of the company’s bottom line or argument that the product is totally safe.
Life now is a lot safer than it was in 1919. But that doesn’t mean we the people should be complacent in the never ending battle to keep us safe.
I took my first ride on the bike path in four weeks this week. No excuse, I just got lazy. I was surprised to see a walk button at the pedestrian crossing on 20th Street. When you push it, flashing yellow lights alert motorists that people are crossing. Has that always been there and I never noticed? I like that and hope that we can get more of those around town, especially on Seventh Street.
Speaking of that, I was on Fifth Avenue waiting for a break in traffic on Seventh Street so I could pedal over to Cooper Park. Imagine my surprise and delight when a motorist actually stopped to let me and another bicyclist cross.
Thanks to the driver of the dark car. When you stopped, a northbound driver also stopped and we both were able to cross safely.
Summer must be about over…sweetcorn for sale signs have disappeared.

Terry Dickow is a retired elementary school teacher with lots of opinions, some you will like, some you won’t. He can be contacted at [email protected]


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