Happy Labor Day! The annual day off from work has many celebrating, or maybe getting in some final summer projects before fall kicks in full swing. But do you know what the holiday really means or why we have it? Keep reading to find out where this annual tradition came from!
- Labor Day is observed on the first Monday in September to celebrate and recognize the achievements of American workers
- As trade unions and labor movements increased in the late 1800s due to the Industrial Revolution, it was proposed to have one day set aside to honor and acknowledge labor in the U.S.
- The proposal came from trade unionists and was promoted by the Central Union
- In the late 19th century, the average American worked 12-hour shifts and seven days a week
- While some states had restrictions, many states were relaxed about children working in mills, factories, and mines, often times in unsafe conditions
- Soon labor unions, which developed in the late 18th century, began protesting low pay, bad hours, and poor working conditions of the time
- Change didn’t happen overnight. On September 5, 1882, the first Labor Day parade took place in New York City when 100,000 took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square
- The idea caught on in other states, and Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day an official public holiday in 1887
- More states followed suit and in 1894, 30 states were observing their own Labor Day
- Congress passed an act on June 28, 1894, making it a legal holiday nationwide
- The timing was crucial to mending relationships between the national government and labor unions
- On June 26, the American Railroad Union declared a boycott on Pullman, Illinois railway cars to demand higher pay and lower rents. Railroad traffic nationwide was affected so much that President Grover Cleveland sent in 12,000 troops to break up the strikes
- Things turned violent in the clashes, and about 30 people died as a result
- The true origin of Labor Day is up for debate. Some argue Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, came up with the idea, while others argue it was Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union who proposed the holiday
- Canada also celebrates its Labor Day (Labour Day) on the first Monday in September
- Labor Day marks the unofficial first day of Fall, hence the infamous “don’t wear white after Labor Day”
Whatever you’re up to today, we hope you take the time to relax and also remember how far workers’ rights have come. Enjoy the holiday and take some of the last sunshine of the season!