WILLWORK, INC. EXHIBIT & EVENT SERVICES REFLECTS ON – AND HONORS – THE SIGNIFICANCE OF LABOR DAY

“Labor was the first price – the original purchase – money that was paid for all things.  It was not by gold or silver, but by labor, that all wealth of the world was originally purchased.”

ADAM SMITH

Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services is a leading exhibit services and event project management company, headquartered in the Boston area, with offices in major cities across the United States.

We have been in business for close to 30 years.  Our success is owed to our loyal and valued customers, our reliable and valued business partners, and our hard-working, dedicated, caring, and valued team of employees.

Every Willwork employee, from the longest serving to the most recent hire, from the most junior to the most senior … every labor crew member … every member of office staff … every technician … every manager … shares the goal and dream of making Willwork the top company in the exhibit services and event project management industry.

All of us at Willwork are thankful for the opportunity that America provides for people to work and be justly compensated for their labor, and to be able to plan and risk and launch and own an enterprise, and to sweat, toil, fret, and ride inspiration and chase a dream.

Labor Day is a day that, for all of us at Willwork, as is the case for hardworking people across America, possesses particular importance, and carries with it particular meaning.   It is a day we hold in high regard.

Labor Day celebrates and honors among the most noble and hallowed of virtues.

Nothing exceptional, nothing great or enduring is accomplished without labor, and without hard work – and this is true whether it is the development of software; constructing a building; practicing for, and competing in, athletic competition; preparing a legal defense; laying a brick walk; writing a book; researching and testing to cure disease; drafting legislation … or providing exhibit services and event project management.

Undergirding and nurturing America’s greatness are opportunities to work, and to learn and train and develop skills and talents, with the end goal of engaging in work that is more fulfilling, and working at a job that improves and makes more secure one’s life, and that of one’s family.

This is not to claim, for sure, that this nation has long been a bastion of ideal and safe work conditions, or a place where workers were treated fairly, or one in which, in the workplace, justice prevailed.

We know that, for a long, long time in this country existed the odious institution of slavery.  It took a war and national bloodletting and conflagration to eradicate slavery.   Other lesser, but still certainly destructive and noxious circumstances were common across all industries in the late 1800s, as America was establishing a footing for itself in world affairs.

And it was in the late 1800s, with the Industrial Revolution at its height in America, and with the motors, engines, pistons, cutting systems, and foundries of factories and mills churning and throttling and hissing full bore, demand was high for workers to operate and maintain and feed the machines, to stoke flames of the crucibles, and to fashion and finish what mechanization spit out and brought forth.

Working conditions were terrible.  A common work week was seven days, 12 hours a day, with job locations that were dirty and unsafe.  Children as young as five years old worked, oftentimes doing jobs that were dangerous.

An injury or illness could easily result in the loss of a job, and with no hope of severance pay.  Workers could be fired without cause.

It was a prosperous time for owners and upper management – not so much for the worker and laborer.

Yet it was in the late 1800s that a movement – one alive but nascent – began to rapidly gain strength, and fast gain adherents and energy and momentum.  It was broadly described as the Labor Movement, and through the guts, diligence, smarts, and sacrifice of its members it transformed work conditions across almost all industries.

The Labor Movement also worked and fought for the establishment of Labor Day holidays, with their first successes coming at the local level.

Below is an excerpt from a page devoted to the history of Labor Day at the U.S. Department of Labor website:

“Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers …. “

How Labor Day became a national law arose out of a nationwide labor strike, which took place in the wake of laws founding municipal and state Labor Days.

It was a strike that turned deadly,

From May 11 through July 20, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company, a manufacturer of railway cars, were on strike across the country.  Workers chose to strike to protest deep pay cuts that coincided with no reduction in a requirement of 16 hour workdays, and no decrease in rents and cost of services and supplies, including food, in Pullman, the company town just outside Chicago where most of the Pullman Palace Car Company employees lived.

Soon employees from other companies in the railroad industry also struck and walked off jobs in support and sympathy for the Pullman strikers.   Rail traffic was deeply disrupted, primarily on lines west of Detroit.

At peak, the strike involved about 250,000 workers across 27 states.   Chicago and the outlying area would remain, however, the locus of activity, and of public and political focus on the strike.

Police and state militia were on assignment to prevent any violence or rioting, and to try to keep clear rail lines that still operated.  It was a daunting mission, with sabotage and vandalism being visited on tracks, rail cars, and other railroad property.

A federal judge leveled an injunction against the strikers, declaring that the strike, and attendant destruction, was an interference with mail delivery.

It was on June 26, with the Pullman strike cauldron red hot and combustible, and organized labor restless and agitating, that U.S. Congress passed legislation to make the first Monday in September a national holiday, Labor Day.   Two days later, President Grover Cleveland, who was staunchly opposed to the strike, but saw ascendant political power in organized labor, signed the bill and Labor Day officially became a national holiday.

On July 3, with rail traffic continuing to be obstructed and impeded, and sabotage and vandalism continuing, Pres. Cleveland sent federal troops to Chicago.  He did so over the protest of Illinois Gov. John B. Altgeld who felt that law enforcement and state militia were sufficient to maintain order.

With the arrival of the U.S. Army, there were now 6,000 federal and state troops, 3,100 police, and 5,000 deputy marshals in Chicago.  On July 4, with martial and police law in place, strikers and protestors – 6.000 of them – became enraged and began to riot.

Three days later, on July 7, after being attacked, national guardsman shot at rioters.  Disputed are casualties that resulted – but at least four were killed, maybe as many as 30, and no fewer than 50 were injured.

In the end, the strike – the battle – failed.  But the broader fight for workers and labor continued – and its considerable achievements, right up to the present, owe much to the Pullman strikers, and other early strikers, and fighters for reform for workers.

It is certain that the Pullman strike expedited and made urgent the need to create a national holiday that honored and recognized labor and its role in building America, and making America great.

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Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services honors and takes immense pride in its legacy as a labor company.

We are renowned for the excellence of our exhibit services and event project management – and that renown is owed to and dependent on, as much as any element and facet, consistently exceptional, committed, honest, and high-quality labor.

Willwork, Inc. Exhibit & Event Services hopes that all enjoy the Labor Day Weekend, and Labor Day – and that all reflect on the importance of the holiday and what it represents.