For most people Labor Day is the official end of summer, the last chance to relax or travel before the demands of school and, in many cases, the harvest command complete attention. These days, Labor Day is the last-chance grill/golf/go-somewhere weekend.
Of course, there are still parades and speeches on this day, when union officials and aspiring politicians make hay with the common man. They're the surviving link to the origins of the holiday as a celebration of "the working man." The first Labor Day was held in New York City on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, sponsored by an outfit called the Central Labor Union. There is some dispute over whether it was the idea of a carpenter named McGuire or a machinist named Maguire. Either way, the Central Labor Union did it again in 1883.
The date was permanently established as the first Monday in September, and the idea had spread to 23 states by 1894. On June 28 of that year, the U.S. Congress, having been prodded by President Grover Cleveland, established it as a federal holiday throughout the land. Labor Day was intended to mollify organized labor and bring labor peace to the country. Earlier that year, a strike against the Pullman Co. had been busted by federal troops and U.S. marshals using firearms, resulting in the deaths of a number of strikers. The confrontation was only the latest between civil authorities and labor activists.
So this week we have a celebration of labor as the cover story, albeit labor of a rarified variety. The word "rarified" is often used in conjunction with the word "air." The air in the occupations outlined in "The Dirty Jobs" by author Mary Ellen Bell is a commonality among the referenced vocations, and in these cases most often is associated with the adjective "foul." So suppress your gag reflex to get through this entertaining article, and on Monday you can enjoy the savory smells emanating from the grill on a day of respite, courtesy of the American worker.