Inside the Beltway: Ronald Reagan’s Labor Day proclamation from 1988

Inside the Beltway: Ronald Reagan's Labor Day proclamation from 1988

The date is Aug. 31, 1988. Then-President Ronald Reagan released this formal proclamation a couple of days in advance of Labor Day that year:

“Each Labor Day, we pause as a nation to honor some of the greatest heroes of the American story. On this 94th Labor Day, I ask all Americans to join me in offering heartfelt thanks and praise to working men and women,” he said.

“We salute working people because they have built our land with skill, energy, and resourcefulness, transforming raw materials into a shining edifice of freedom and prosperity. On Labor Day we recognize these achievements and reflect on the meaning and dignity of work and on the values it protects and strengthens — the values we as a nation hold most dear,” Reagan noted.

“In both peacetime and time of war, American workers have always offered each other and the world their very best, affirming their liberty as individuals and as members of a team and promoting the ideals of free enterprise and democracy here and around the globe,” he said.

“America’s workers continue to display the spirit, ingenuity, and adaptability to new conditions that labor and employers alike need if our economy is to continue to grow. This willingness to meet every challenge speaks volumes about the health and vitality of our way of life,” the president continued.

“Let us always remember that so much of what we are, we owe to working men and women. God gave us this land, but, under his good graces, the labor of our people has helped it flourish and pour forth its plenty for ourselves and the world. For all these reasons, America celebrates Labor Day, 1988 with fresh gratitude and pride,” Reagan concluded.


“I have often said that the middle class built this country and that unions built the middle class. On Labor Day, we honor that essential truth and the dedication and dignity of American workers, who power our nation’s prosperity,” President Biden said in his Labor Day proclamation, which was released Friday.

“They have built the railways, highways, and waterways that connect us from coast to coast, have forged the look and feel of American cities, and have protected our communities and families as first responders. Organized workers have fundamentally transformed how we live and work in this country — from securing the 8-hour work day and overtime pay to mandating standard safety practices in workplaces and earning better health care, pensions, and other benefits for all workers,” the president said.

“American workers are the best in the world, but over the past few decades, too many leaders embraced an economic theory that failed them and our unions. It is called trickle-down economics. It is the belief that we should cut taxes for the wealthy and big corporations and wait for the benefits to trickle down to workers and American families. It is a belief that we should shrink public investment in infrastructure and public education. It is a tax policy that encourages corporations to move operations and jobs overseas,” Mr. Biden noted.

Find his complete “Proclamation for Labor Day, 2023” at, in the “Briefing room” section of the site, listed among “Presidential Actions.” The White House released a “Fact Sheet” on the holiday as well.


Financial concerns have taken a noticeable toll on the Labor Day holiday. Yes, there’s a poll — this one conducted by It found that 55% of U.S. adults plan to spend less this Labor Day than they did last year.

“This is a sign that people’s wallets have been impacted by inflation, even though it has decreased recently,” the news and information site noted in a brief analysis.

The poll found that 38% of the respondents said they are worse off financially than they were last Labor Day — while 41% said the overall U.S. labor force in general is worse off this year than in 2022.

“Many people have started working harder. 63% of people are working harder due to inflation. Inflation is impacting Labor Day travel. 61% of people are less likely to travel this Labor Day due to inflation,” the analysis said.

“Job security is a rising concern. 23% more people say they are concerned about their job security this Labor Day compared to last year. There is high demand for raises. 87% of people want a raise to keep up with inflation,” it noted.

On top of everything else, the poll also found that over a third of the respondents — 37% — are concerned that artificial intelligence “will take their jobs.”

The survey of 2,200 U.S. adults was conducted Aug. 7-11 and released Friday.


Does Labor Day have a historical dynamic going for it? Why yes, it does. Here’s a written statement from the Labor Department tracing the holiday’s heritage:

Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. The holiday is rooted in the late nineteenth century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being,” the federal agency said in a brief official history of the occasion.

“Before it was a federal holiday, Labor Day was recognized by labor activists and individual states. After municipal ordinances were passed in 1885 and 1886, a movement developed to secure state legislation. New York was the first state to introduce a bill, but Oregon was the first to pass a law recognizing Labor Day, on February 21, 1887,” the agency said.

“During 1887, four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — passed laws creating a Labor Day holiday. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday,” the agency said.


• 51% of U.S. adults have a favorable opinion of labor unions.

• 29% have an unfavorable opinion of labor unions.

• 20% don’t know how they feel about labor unions.

• 32% say unions are less powerful now, compared to their influence 30 years ago.

• 21% say there has not been much change in the unions’ level of power.

• 20% say unions are now stronger.

• 26% are not sure how powerful labor unions are.

SOURCE: An Economist/YouGov poll of 1,500 U.S. adults conducted Aug. 28-30.

• Contact Jennifer Harper at

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