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Opinion | Labor Day is a tribute to those who manufacture, build and grow

Labor Day background with USA rustic wooden flag and utility belt plus hard hat

When many of us were growing up, Labor Day was the traditional end of summer, and we started back to school the next day. Back in those days, political campaigns did not really begin until Labor Day.

I recall President Ronald Reagan kicking off his 1980 campaign on Labor Day with the Statue of Liberty behind him and Nancy Reagan beside him. Since then, many things have changed, including a much earlier start to school and year-round campaigning.  

What has not changed — although it may be forgotten — is that we observe Labor Day in honor of those who labor.  

Labor Day is a tribute to American labor, to those who manufacture and build things. It is a tribute to the American factory worker, skilled craftsman, carpenter and farmer. It is a tribute to those who create wealth through their labor and to those who made the United States an economic, industrial and military powerhouse through their labor and skill.  

Wealth and value are created by manufacturing products, harvesting agriculture and extracting minerals. Without this original wealth creation, there would be no service industry nor a multi-faceted economy.  

Personally, I take great pride in working for a manufacturing company. Especially one that makes products contributing to public health through clean water, to public safety through fire protection, to economic strength through energy production and to agriculture and mining through machinery. 

I am proud to be part of the American iron and steel industry and to be a part of manufacturing products that built and continue to build America and the world. Our roads, bridges, buildings, automobile and aerospace industries, agriculture, military and so much more depend on manufacturing and the labor behind it.

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Indeed, the American iron and steelworkers who melt, cast and process iron and steel are the backbone of local, domestic and global economies. These workers make possible everything we enjoy.

There are nearly 10,000 iron and steelworkers in Alabama with manufacturing facilities across our entire state, and another 63,000 Alabama workers are supported by the industry.

Alabama iron and steel employment is highly skilled, utilizing the latest manufacturing technology and innovation, and annual earnings are strong. This critical component of our economic and national security has continued to produce throughout our difficult year of pandemic.

Labor Day dates to 1887 and became a federal holiday in 1894.  It grew from the American labor movement, which is alive and well today. It is driven by those who do the work, and it has led to improvements in productivity, safety and innovation that contribute to the advancement of mankind.  

While happily joining in the traditional celebrations of Labor Day, I salute the virtue of American labor and Alabama workers. Within Alabama’s iron and steel industry, every day is Labor Day.

Maury D. Gaston is chairman of the Alabama Iron and Steel Council, a council of Manufacture Alabama, and a director and past chairman of the state of Alabama Engineering Hall of Fame. Gaston is a mechanical engineering graduate of Auburn University and manager of marketing for American Cast Iron Pipe in Birmingham.

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