Labor Day conjures images of cookouts and beach parties, brings back-to-school sales and banishes the wearing of white shoes for some. But while Labor Day has come to mark “the last hurrah” of summer for most Americans, its roots are decidedly serious.
As you may recall from high school history class, working conditions in 19th century America were dismal to say the least. Long hours, low pay and unsafe working conditions—especially for children—dominated the country’s factories, mills and mines.Then along came the unions to bring the workers together and fight for better conditions. The origins of a “labor day” worker parade date back to Philadelphia in 1869. But the first major, organized worker march in support of better working conditions took place on September 5, 1882 in New York City as labor leaders called for workers to take a day off without pay to march from City Hall to Union Station.
Other cities soon followed suit and the first Monday in September became a day of honoring workers and their contributions to society. After a particularly ugly confrontation between striking Pullman Standard workers and the National Guard, the government made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894. Over the next 50 years, labor regulations and practices improved dramatically to the point that the concept of a worker’s holiday faded into the background in favor of end-of-summer frivolities.
Corn and Black Bean Summer Salad
- 1 16 oz. bag roasted corn kernels (see hints below)
- 1 15 oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 c. cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 c. diced red pepper (about half a large pepper)
- 2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and diced
- 1/2 medium red onion, diced
- 1/4 c. cilantro, chopped
- 1/4 c. olive oil
- 1/4 c. rice vinegar
- 1 t. sugar
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- Juice and zest of 2 limes
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a large bowl, combine the vegetables and cilantro. To make the dressing, whisk together the oil, vinegar, sugar, red pepper flakes, lime zest and juice in a small bowl. Pour the dressing over the vegetable mixture and combine gently. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours for optimal flavor blending. This salad may be served cold or at room temperature.
- Roasted corn kernels may be found in the freezer section. I get them at Trader Joe’s. Or, you may substitute 2 ears of corn on cob. Rub them with a little olive oil and grill them over medium high heat until they begin to char. When cool to touch, stand an ear of corn on the bottom of a large bowl (cut the bottom so it’s even, if necessary) and with a sharp knife, carefully cut the kernels off the cob. (Do be careful!)
- Substitute chopped Roma or regular tomatoes.
- Use whatever vinegar you have if you don’t have rice vinegar.
- Omit or substitute peppers at will.
So whether you’re celebrating workers or celebrating a day off of work (yea!), have a fun and safe holiday!Read More