Let go of that load ÑÊfor a day anyway

Carolyn Shaffer, a member of Laborers General & Construction Local 320, is helping to build TriMet's Interstate MAX light-rail line in Northeast Portland.

She is one of eight people featured in today's Business Tribune who typifies the workers that Labor Day is meant to honor.

It's a day with particular meaning here. Oregon was the first state to pass a law setting it aside as a holiday. That was in 1887. Congress didn't get around to making it a national holiday until 1894.

As organized labor's ranks have thinned, the holiday's union moorings have frayed. Few of the day's festivities will pay homage to the 13.5 percent of American workers who still belong to unions (versus 36 percent in the early 1950s).

For most, Labor Day marks the last gasp of summer fun before the start of a new school year and the return to serious business. But these eight workers and thousands like them are the real reason for the day off.

See C1-C3

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