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Happy Labor Day!

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"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures." So said Samuel Gompers, founder of the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions in 1881. On the day that we honor working men and women, let's revisit the origins of Labor Day.

Most of us regard Labor Day as the last "hurrah!" of Summer—a three-day weekend to make one final getaway before autumn encroaches, or at least an excuse to fire up the grill one last time. But Labor Day was originally founded in 1882 as not only a celebration (with picnics and parades in New York City's Reservoir Park) for the working man, but also as a public rally to gain support for an eight-hour work day. (Thanks to the Industrial Revolution, it was not unusual for companies to require workers to stay on the job for 10 to 12 hour shifts with no overtime pay.) For the next few years, workers who chose to march in parades on the first Monday in September took the off without pay in order to participate. Oregon was the first state to recognize Labor Day as a legal paid holiday in 1887.

The Pullman Strike

pullman

In 1894 approximately 3,000 workers at Illinois' Pullman Palace Car Company initiated a wildcat strike in protest of recent wage cuts. Rail traffic in Chicago and points west ground to a halt as a result, and President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops in to settle matters, since the strike was interfering with the delivery of U.S. mail. Violence erupted, strikers were killed, and Cleveland received very negative press for his decision. In an effort to appease American workers, he signed a bill in 1894 declaring Labor Day a national holiday.

Labor Unions

American labor unions are almost as old as the nation itself. As early as 1648, the seeds of unionization were planted when coopers (barrel makers) and shoemakers in Boston banded together and formed guilds. The first collective bargaining unit was formed in Philadelphia in 1792, where a group of shoe-makers held regular meetings and collected dues. Not too long afterward, leather workers and carpenters in Boston followed suit, as well as printers in New York City.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2005 15.8 million Americans are dues-paying members of labor unions. California may not be a hotbed of manufacturing, but thanks to Hollywood and the vast array of different people needed to pump out movies and TV shows (including the carpenters that build sets, make-up artists, caterers and other behind-the-scenes workers) that state leads the nation in union membership. It's only logical that Wyoming, as the least populous state in the U.S., is also the state that has the lowest union membership.

Why Are They Called "Teamsters"?

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters is one of the largest labor unions in the United States. Have you ever wondered how this group of professional drivers and warehouse workers got their name? It dates back to 1903, when most deliveries were made by horse-drawn wagons. The driver was referred to as a "teamster," because he was teamstersthe one who managed the team that was pulling the load.

Today when the Teamsters are mentioned, the name "Jimmy Hoffa" immediately comes to mind. Hoffa was president of that union from 1958 until 1971, the last four of which he administered while behind bars—he'd been convicted of attempted bribery and jury tampering. He was last seen in the parking lot of the Machus Red Fox restaurant in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, in 1975. The Red Fox closed in 1996, but in all the intervening years, wait staff reported that not a week went by without at least one customer asking which booth Jimmy Hoffa had sat in that fateful July afternoon.

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science
6 Radiant Facts About Irène Joliot-Curie
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Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Though her accomplishments are often overshadowed by those of her parents, the elder daughter of Marie and Pierre Curie was a brilliant researcher in her own right.

1. SHE WAS BORN TO, AND FOR, GREATNESS.

A black and white photo of Irene and Marie Curie in the laboratory in 1925.
Irène and Marie in the laboratory, 1925.
Wellcome Images, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 4.0

Irène’s birth in Paris in 1897 launched what would become a world-changing scientific dynasty. A restless Marie rejoined her loving husband in the laboratory shortly after the baby’s arrival. Over the next 10 years, the Curies discovered radium and polonium, founded the science of radioactivity, welcomed a second daughter, Eve, and won a Nobel Prize in Physics. The Curies expected their daughters to excel in their education and their work. And excel they did; by 1925, Irène had a doctorate in chemistry and was working in her mother’s laboratory.

2. HER PARENTS' MARRIAGE WAS A MODEL FOR HER OWN.

Like her mother, Irène fell in love in the lab—both with her work and with another scientist. Frédéric Joliot joined the Curie team as an assistant. He and Irène quickly bonded over shared interests in sports, the arts, and human rights. The two began collaborating on research and soon married, equitably combining their names and signing their work Irène and Frédéric Joliot-Curie.

3. SHE AND HER HUSBAND WERE AN UNSTOPPABLE PAIR.

Black and white photo of Irène and Fréderic Joliot-Curie working side by side in their laboratory.
Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Their passion for exploration drove them ever onward into exciting new territory. A decade of experimentation yielded advances in several disciplines. They learned how the thyroid gland absorbs radioiodine and how the body metabolizes radioactive phosphates. They found ways to coax radioactive isotopes from ordinarily non-radioactive materials—a discovery that would eventually enable both nuclear power and atomic weaponry, and one that earned them the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 1935.

4. THEY FOUGHT FOR JUSTICE AND PEACE.

The humanist principles that initially drew Irène and Frédéric together only deepened as they grew older. Both were proud members of the Socialist Party and the Comité de Vigilance des Intellectuels Antifascistes (Vigilance Committee of Anti-Fascist Intellectuals). They took great pains to keep atomic research out of Nazi hands, sealing and hiding their research as Germany occupied their country, Irène also served as undersecretary of state for scientific research of the Popular Front government.

5. SHE WAS NOT CONTENT WITH THE STATUS QUO.

Irène eventually scaled back her time in the lab to raise her children Hélène and Pierre. But she never slowed down, nor did she stop fighting for equality and freedom for all. Especially active in women’s rights groups, she became a member of the Comité National de l'Union des Femmes Françaises and the World Peace Council.

6. SHE WORKED HERSELF TO DEATH.

Irène’s extraordinary life was a mirror of her mother’s. Tragically, her death was, too. Years of watching radiation poisoning and cancer taking their toll on Marie never dissuaded Irène from her work. In 1956, dying of leukemia, she entered the Curie Hospital, where she followed her mother’s luminous footsteps into the great beyond.

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Live Smarter
You Can Now Order Food Through Facebook
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After a bit of controversy over its way of aggregating news feeds and some questionable content censoring policies, it’s nice to have Facebook roll out a feature everyone can agree on: allowing you to order food without leaving the social media site.

According to a press release, Facebook says that the company decided to begin offering food delivery options after realizing that many of its users come to the social media hub to rate and discuss local eateries. Rather than hop from Facebook to the restaurant or a delivery service, you’ll be able to stay within the app and select from a menu of food choices. Just click “Order Food” from the Explore menu on a desktop interface or under the “More” option on Android or iOS devices. There, you’ll be presented with options that will accept takeout or delivery orders, as well as businesses participating with services like Delivery.com or EatStreet.

If you need to sign up and create an account with Delivery.com or Jimmy John’s, for example, you can do that without leaving Facebook. The feature is expected to be available nationally, effective immediately.

[h/t Forbes]

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