To our Harrison family,
Even during a pandemic, Labor Day weekend has a familiar vibe, doesn’t it? With the kids heading back to school, it’s the unofficial end of Summer even though the warm weather will last for another month or so. The holiday weekend is typically fraught with festivals or parades or concerts somewhere in the region. It’s also a very big weekend for family gatherings and barbecues….what’s your favorite grilled delectable? Granted, this year is different, but I’m guessing that a small, basic get-together with immediate family and a few grilled burgers and hot dogs may be more appreciated than ever.
Speaking of appreciation, this three-day weekend exists for us to recognize and celebrate the American Worker. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and six or seven-day work weeks in order to eke out a basic living.
In some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, at a fraction of adult wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions. As manufacturing became the dominant path of the nation’s workforce, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing rallies to compel employers to improve working conditions, increase pay rates and decrease hours.
In fact, it was a labor union that initiated the first Labor Day celebration on September 5, 1882. Though there is still discussion about whose brainchild the holiday was, we know it was the Central Labor Union of New York City that acted on the idea and took unpaid time off to honor workers. That included organizing a march of 10,000 workers from City Hall to Union Square, marking the first Labor Day Parade.
The idea of a “workman’s holiday” celebrated on the first Monday in September caught on throughout the country, with this informal celebration spreading over the next several years. Congress finally made it official 12 years later making Labor Day a legal holiday, with President Grover Cleveland signing the law on June 28, 1894.
So, today our Township Committee wants to recognize the American Worker for all that he and she have meant to the world. Most importantly, we celebrate the incomparable American Spirit that is the foundation of who we are as a people. That spirit will undoubtedly lift us out of the economic valley created by the COVID crisis, stronger than ever.
Our township employees, deemed essential in these times, never missed a beat. On behalf of our community, I say “thank you” to each of them for maintaining our continuity and providing all the services we need in our everyday life, seemingly unaffected by these unusual circumstances. That gratitude is also extended to the dozens of resident volunteers who stayed connected to their respective Boards and Commissions over these last several months. Your dedication and commitment to this community is incredible and we love you for it. Much of that resident energy is channeled to produce our wonderful township events. BTW, Lights on Main was recently selected as the Best Event in Gloucester County…again! I believe that’s 8 years running.
Clearly, we needed to make some adjustments this year (Harrison Township Day in May was canceled) and we’ve been asked about the future. I sat down with Committeewoman, Julie DeLaurentis, to discuss this and the status of several events normally slated for the Fall season. Julie is one of the central players in the production of all township events, so there is no better resource on this topic than her. Beyond her elected role on the Township Committee for the last 3 years, Julie has served as a volunteer on several boards for 20+ years, including the Recreation Commission. That’s the birthplace and cultivation center of our stellar events in Harrison. Take a few minutes to watch my discussion with Julie and get up to speed on what’s Happening in the Hill when it comes to upcoming events.