Thousands of people tighten their laces, cinch up their sneakers and stride across bridges today.

The 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge Walk, which isolates our state peninsulas for one morning a year for walkers and joggers, is the original trendsetter.

But the Mighty Mac spawned many other bridge walks, some great, many small. Locally we will walk bridges in Lake Leelanau, Glen Haven and Beulah.

We appreciate the confluence of modern day Labor Day with its union roots.

President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894 to bridge the divide between unions and government, six days after the end of the Army-involved Pullman railroad strike.

The symbolic recognition of the union brought peace to chaos, which had already killed 30 protesters.

The bridge is a nice image to extend to the current contract negotiations for faculty at Northwestern Michigan College, the March-minted nurses’ contract at Munson Medical Center, and other negotiations to come.

Messaging between management and unions is a game of complicated strategy. Public opinion is muscle that breaks negotiation logjams, one way or another.

So both sides court its reason, stoke its emotion and leaves much out in the way of context when painting a simple pictures of villains and heroes.

But in context lies truth. Is it fair to throw stones at administrative budget growth when there’s an inconvenient reason, like positions being filled that had been vacant for a year?

Is it fair for administrators to lump in health insurance and other benefits to artificially bump up average compensation for sticker shock value?

Such strategies are not uncommon in the battle for our hearts and minds — or to solidify positions within each base.

But context can be a bridge, and bridges allow us to meet over troubled waters when we need to.

Or, when we just want to take a Labor Day stroll.