Why is Labor Day a Holiday?

30 08 2013

IMG_4765What does Labor Day mean to you: A day off work to knock out a home project or attend an outdoor party, the last day of summer before the school year begins, a day to shop amazing sales, the final day to wear white and seersucker until Easter, the start of football season? However you prefer to spend Labor Day in the United States of America, you have the Central Labor Union to thank for it. Our nation’s trade unions unofficially observed Labor Day for years until the CLU organized it in the 1880s, choosing the first Monday of September to honor American laborers.

Their motivation stemmed from the common practice of working 12-hour days, seven days a week with no break times. Children as young as five worked in factories, mills and mines across America, earning wages significantly less than their adult coworkers. Laborers of all ages and professions worked in unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

Early proposals of Labor Day state that its purpose is to celebrate the social and economic contributions of workers and their achievements toward the strength, prosperity and health of America. Traditionally, Labor Day kicks off with public street parades to exhibit the strength and spirit of American laborers, peppered with speeches by prominent leaders emphasizing the economic and civil significance of the holiday, followed by festivals and athletic events “for the recreation and amusement of workers and their families.”

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All states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories have made Labor Day a statutory holiday. All government offices and organizations, schools, and many businesses are closed on Labor Day. If you are a fortunate laborer who has this holiday off, enjoy it with a bit more knowledge of why you do.

A Brief Overview of Labor Day History

  • 1882 New York City, ten thousand workers took an unpaid day off work to march in the first Labor Day parade
  • 1884 the first Monday of September named Labor Day
  • 1887 Oregon became the first state to pass the law making Labor Day an official holiday
  • 1894 Labor Day became a federal holiday


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