I’m a bit embarrassed to admit it, but I’m not that familiar with the actual history of Labor Day. The one thing I do know is that it’s a day off work and typically filled with parades, picnics, barbecues, and fun! While I was aware that I should probably know more than this, I never really looked into it much. I have decided to learn a bit more and thought I’d share it with you. If you’re going to a bbq or party over this Labor Day weekend, here’s a little bit of info about the holiday that you can share so you sound like an expert.
The definition, according to History.com.
“Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. It was created by the labor movement in the late 19th century and became a federal holiday in 1894. Labor Day also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans, and is celebrated with parties, parades and athletic events.”
I did some reading on this and I have to admit that I had no idea of (or had forgotten about) the workers’ struggles that initiated the movement for Labor Day. This time in history (in the late 1800s) was at the height of the Industrial Revolution. During this time, the average American was working every single day of the week, 12 hours every day, just to survive. They were forced to work in unsafe and unhealthy work environments and small children were put to work as well. Brave workers organized labor unions and held strikes and protests about the working conditions, the pay, and the safety concerns. This was, in reality, a time of both violence and of celebration. I am now very grateful to those people who stood up for their rights, those that took the chances and those that lost their lives in order to bring about change in worker’s rights that we now enjoy and usually take for granted.
There is, to this day, some debate as to who initially proposed the idea of Labor Day but following such events as the Haymarket Riot of 1886 (in Chicago) and the events of the Pullman Strike of 1894 (in Chicago), President Grover Cleveland and the United States Congress voted unanimously to approve legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday. The first proposal of the holiday included the form that the celebration should take:
A street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” followed by a festival for the workers and their families.
Labor Day is a tribute to the contributions that workers have made, and continue to make, to the growth and continued prosperity of our country. So, thanks to our hardworking ancestors, the labor unions, and all who participated in the labor movement we will, on Monday, continue to enjoy our “workingmen’s holiday”.