TIP SHEET: University of Virginia Experts on Labor Day Holiday

August 30, 2007
Four U.Va. experts can address different aspects of the holiday weekend and the labor movement. They are:

Cindy S. Aron, author of “Working at Play: A History of Vacations in the United States,” can discuss the leisure aspects of the weekend.

William R. Johnson, editor of the Journal of Labor Economics, can discuss the current status of organized labor.

Guian McKee, who specializes in U.S. social policy history, urban history and civil rights history, can discuss the history of the labor movement.

Cathy McGhee, from the Virginia Transportation Research Council, can discuss traffic issues related to a holiday weekend.

BACKGROUND ON LABOR DAY:     The first Labor Day celebration was held in September 1882 in New York City. An act of Congress in 1894 fixed an annual legal holiday on the first Monday of September. What started as a celebration of the labor movement has become the unofficial last weekend of the summer season.

Cindy S. Aron, professor of American Women’s History, says, “Americans have a love/hate relationships with leisure. They take time off from work but feel uncomfortable about it, so they find leisure that reminds them of work, such as self-improvement activities.”

Aron received a bachelor of arts degree from Brandeis University in 1967. She then attended the University of Maryland, earning a masters’ degree in 1975 and a Ph.D. in 1981.

Contact: (301) 907-7922 or msa5w@virginia.edu.

William R. Johnson, Professor and Chairman of the Department of Economics, says, “Labor unions have been in decline for about 40 years, largely because of deregulation and global trade. They will probably always be around in particular parts of the economy. The sectors where they have increased in strength are government, because government is a monopoly.”

Johnson received his bachelor of arts degree from Wesleyan University in 1968 and his economics Ph.D. from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975. He started teaching at U.Va. in 1974 and has been a visiting scholar at the National Bureau of Economic Research in Palo Alto, Calif., and a visiting assistant professor of economics at Stanford University.

Contact: (434) 924-3251 or wjohnson@virginia.edu.

Guian McKee, an assistant professor at the Miller Center of Public Affairs, specializes in U.S. social policy history, urban history and civil rights history. He says, “The Labor Day holiday, at this point, is an anachronism with historical roots that lie in a period of time when there was a more vibrant labor movement that touched the lives of far greater percentage of Americans than today. But there is no question that issues of work and labor are central to policy and politics today.”

McKee received a Ph.D. in American history at the University of California, Berkeley, and joined the Miller Center's Presidential Recordings Program in August 2002. He is completing a book on urban liberalism, de-industrialization, and the legacy of the New Deal in post-World War II Philadelphia, “Liberalism and the Problem of Jobs: Public Policy and Community Action in Postwar Philadelphia.”

Contact:  (434) 243-8856 or gam2n@virginia.edu

Cathy McGhee, acting associate director of the System Operations & Traffic Engineering team for the Virginia Transportation Research Council, is the co-director of the Smart Travel Lab at the Center for Transportation Studies at U.Va. Her research focuses on transportation operations, intelligent transportation systems, simulation modeling and evaluation and data and performance measurement.

McGhee received her bachelor of science degree in civil engineering from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, and her master of science degree in civil engineering from the University of Virginia. She is a registered professional engineer in Virginia.

Contact: (434) 293-1973 or Cathy.McGhee@VDOT.Virginia.gov