Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Decade-Long Battle to Put the ‘Labor’ in Wikipedia’s ‘Labor Day’ Page

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Traditions are difficult to uphold when corporate businesses oppose them. Brian Merchant reports on MotherBoard:

Yesterday was Labor Day, and the first thing I did when I sat down to work through it was Google “Labor Day.”

Because, let’s be honest—do you remember the holiday’s history, really? Well, you might say, stalling as you wait for Wikipedia to load, it’s about the American worker, so—ah: “Labor Day in the United States is a public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September. It honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.” Sure. But I don’t know a whole lot of people who were raising their glasses to Eugene Debs their extra day off.

Given that Labor Day is just about our least-understood national holiday—today, we know it better as one of our most reliable three-day-weekend/beach day enablers, a proto Black Friday retail sale stretch, or the subject of outdated jokes about the temporal limits of wearing white—that Wikipedia page is now the portal through which most of us recall the little that we do about the supposed worker’s holiday. It’s one of the few times the droves of people who Google “Labor Day” on Labor Day will happen upon information about the early labor movement.

It’s also a case study in how Wikipedia pages reflect the times they’re edited in, as well as their volunteer creators’ attitudes and whims: Since its 2001 inception, the “Labor Day” page has hosted a battle between the forces of political ideology, vandalism, and dull specificity.

Continuing to read said page today, you find the following: “Labor Day was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first parade in New York City. After the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago on May 4, 1886, U.S. President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the affair. Therefore, in 1887, the United States holiday was established in September.” All of which is presented void of context, I might add—who remembers the Knights of Labor? And why were they organizing?

If you happen to read below the navigational fold—which is, what, 2 percent of us—you might then discover a brief mention of the true genesis of Labor Day as a federal holiday. It came about directly after Cleveland rallied 14,000 US Marshals to bust the Pullman Strike, one of the biggest of the era, left dozens of workers dead, and was desperate for a pro-labor diversion. As a recent Jacobin story pointed out, Labor Day is the product of the labor movement’s defeat, not its victory—but the page might at least fully explain the event, or what the day came to mean for the American working class?

There’s nothing on the Wikipedia page about the conditions during the Gilded Age that gave rise to the labor movement or its achievements that we might be celebrating—the limits to the working day and the working week (that we have weekends at all), workplace protections, and so on. It’s a reflection of how little regard there is for the holiday’s supposed honorees that the page doesn’t list a single reason we should honor them.

This is, more or less, how the page has always been. Since its creation on November 1, 2001 by Torontonian computer manual and sci-fi writer Paul Drye, the page has been edited 2,178 times by 1,333 different authors. Few have sought to include more than a passing reference to the holiday’s labor movement roots, if any at all. Some have actively swept any reference to organized labor away. . .

Continue reading.

The Wikipedia battles are interesting. Some people really do not want us to remember our own country’s history.

Written by LeisureGuy

8 September 2015 at 10:05 am

Posted in Business, Daily life, Unions

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