Labor Day is celebrated on September 6 and it’s a day where we pay tribute to what American workers have contributed to the country and achieved. Labor Day has been a federal holiday since 1894 and it was put forward by the labor movement in the late 19th century.
Labor Day is a national tribute that recognizes the contributions American workers have made to the prosperity, strength, and wellbeing of the United States. It’s meant to honor them and their social and economic achievements. American workers helped built this country by turning the visions of great men like Andrew Carnegie into a reality. So they certainly deserve the recognition!
The History of Labor Day
The first time Labor Day was celebrated was back in September 5, 1882, in NYC following the Central Labor Union’s plans. 10.000 workers took unpaid time from work to march from City Hall to Union Square for the first Labor Day parade in history. The second time the holiday was celebrated was the next year on the same date. A year later, 23 states had accepted the holiday, so on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland officially made Labor Day the first Monday of September by signing a bill.
It’s been over a century since this all happened, but we still don’t know for sure who first proposed the idea of Labor Day to honor workers. According to some records, it was Peter J. MacGuire, who co-founded the American Federation of Labor, the one who suggested there should be a day to honor the workers who carved the country’s grandeur.
However, this has been challenged. Many think it was actually Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who proposed the idea. Recent research backs this up; it appears he proposed it in 1882 while he held the position of secretary of the Central Labor Union in NYC. Though it’s not 100% clear who made the proposition, what we do know for sure is that the proposal was accepted and adopted by the Central Labor Union, where a committee was created to plan the first Labor Day celebration.
Why Is Labor Day Celebrated
When the Industrial Revolution was booming in the U.S., American workers labored for an average of 12 hours per day, 6 days a week only to cover basic needs. Though there were restrictions in place in some states, children joined the workforce at a very early age. Children of 5 or 6 years of age worked in factories, mines, and mills all over the country and they earned a fraction of what adults made.
Workers of all ages worked under extremely unsafe conditions where they had no access to sanitary facilities or fresh air, and they rarely received breaks. This was particularly true for poor workers and immigrants. Now, labor unions first started appearing in the late 18th century, but once manufacturing started supplanting agriculture as the main industry, labor unions became more common.
They started organizing rallies and strikes to show their unhappiness with the working conditions and to prompt employers to renegotiate wages and hours. Many of these rallies and strikes got violent. An example of that would be the Haymarket Riot which took place in 1886, where workers and Chicago policemen lost their lives. But while some of these events got violent, others accomplished what they wanted, which is how the longstanding tradition of Labor Day came to be.
How to Observe Labor Day
Throughout time things have changed, so the original purpose of the holiday has faded and it has come to signify the end of summer. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because hard workers can enjoy this time and have one last hurrah before they go back to work. Though Labor Day is no longer a day where workers are honored, it still gives working people a break, which is just as important.
You can observe Labor Day by attending local events such as parades, music festivals, and other events to celebrate this day. It’s also common to have public gatherings to celebrate this holiday such as picnics, firework displays, barbecues, and more. It’s the end of the summer, so make the most of it!