【英文閱讀】美國勞工運動的起源

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Labor Day: A Day of Rest
勞動節,休息日

你知道美國的勞動節和大家耳熟能詳的五一勞動節不是同一天嗎?它們兩者之間又有什麼關聯呢?請看以下的介紹。

For most Americans, Labor Day means a three-day weekend and the end of summer. It’s a time of barbecues, picnics and back-to-school sales. But it wasn’t always that way. The holiday, which falls on the first Monday of September, has its roots in the labor movement of the late 19th century.

Back in the 1880s, most American workers toiled long hours for low wages, often in dangerous environments. Labor unions began organizing strikes for better working conditions, many of which ended in violence. In the Haymarket Riot of May 1886, Chicago police killed several workers who were striking for an eight-hour workday—an event that inspired socialist groups to establish International Workers’ Day, or May Day. And in May 1894, President Cleveland sent Army troops to break up the Pullman Strike, resulting in the death of 30 railroad workers.

Fearful that the situation was getting out of control, Cleveland decided to repair ties with workers by creating a national holiday in their honor. Just six days after the strike ended, Congress declared the first Monday of September as Labor Day. Why that particular day? The Central Labor Union in New York City had established that date as a “working men’s holiday” in 1884, and within a decade it was a public holiday in 24 states. And since May Day had socialist connections, the first Monday of September was the obvious choice for a national Labor Day holiday.

Early Labor Day celebrations featured political rallies, speeches and parades, but the holiday began to change with the decline of unions in the late 20th century. There are still parades on Labor Day, but for most it’s just a time to get together with family and friends and say goodbye to summer.

對多數美國人來說,勞動節代表會有個連休三天的週末,以及夏天的結束,這是烤肉、野餐和開學特賣會的時節。但並非一直都是如此。這個定於九月第一個星期一的節日,起源於十九世紀末期的勞工運動。

回到一八八○年代,多數美國工人都辛苦從事工時長、低薪資的工作,環境也多半危險,於是工會開始組織發動罷工爭取更好的工作條件,其中多起罷工以暴力收場。在一八八六年五月的乾草市場暴動中,芝加哥警方殺害了數名罷工爭取每天八小時工時的工人――此事件激發社會主義團體訂定國際勞工節,又名五一勞動節。而在一八九四年五月,克里夫蘭總統派遣軍隊驅散普爾曼罷工,造成三十名鐵路工人喪生。

擔心局面越來越失控,克里夫蘭決定與勞方修補關係,制定全國性假日向勞工致敬。罷工結束才六天, 國會便宣布九月第一個星期一為勞動節。為什麼特別選定那一天呢?紐約市的中央工會已在一八八四年將那一天定為「工人的假日」,不到十年,這一天已成為二十四個州的法定假日,而且五一勞動節與社會主義關係匪淺,所以九月第一個星期一顯然是美國勞動節的首選。

早期的勞動節慶祝活動包括政治性的集會、演講和遊行,但是隨著工會在二十世紀晚期式微,該節日也開始出現變化。現在的勞動節仍有遊行,但對多數人來說,這一天就只是與親朋好友團聚並向夏天道別的時刻。

【實用字彙】
movement (n.) (思想、社會等)運動
strike (n./v.) 罷工
rally (n.) (政治)集會,大會
decline (n./v.) 下跌,衰退

本文取材自《美國文化通American Online:EZ TALK總編嚴選特刊

圖片來源:pixabay

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