Many Americans have forgotten the meaning of Labor Day and view it as nothing more than a way to mark the end of summer, but Labor Day is really a celebration of worker’s rights and the triumphs that the labor movement has gained over the last couple of centuries.
In the United States Labor Day takes place on the first Monday of September. For many this day marks the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. But Labor Day is not just the end of summer, it is a celebration workers of all sorts. Labor Day, held each year on the first Monday in September, was intended as a tribute to America’s workers.
The first Labor Day was organized by Peter J McGuire in 1882. McGuire was a carpenter and one of the leaders of the American union movement. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. Over 10,000 workers marched from New York’s City Hall to Union Square. After the parade they enjoyed a picnic, concert, and speeches at Reservoir Park with their families.
The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on Sept. 5, 1883. In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a ‘workingmen’s holiday’ on that date. In 1894, Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday after a failed attempt to break up a railroad strike.
But, Labor Day is about more than just the long weekend… it’s about you… Really. The holiday was created “to celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers,” in the words of the Department of Labor, and workers’ issues are still important. You remember the stories from American history class in high school: Industrial Revolution, sweat shops, child labor, unsafe work environments, no benefits, no rights for workers… We owe these incredible advances to the efforts of the labor movement, and we owe it to ourselves never to become complacent in terms of understanding our rights and knowing our worth.
Without workers, America wouldn’t be what it is today. Our country is built upon many principles, but one of the most important things to remember is that it was, in fact, “built”. We owe a lot to the hard work of those who came before us, from making the most of our benefits to making sure we’re getting the wage we should. Now, this particular holiday was founded specifically to provide recreation and amusement to workers in America…. so there’s no reason to abandon your picnic plans… but… while you are enjoying your end-of-the-Summer barebecue, you could also take some time today to remember “Labor built this country.”
Just a few observations about Labor Day from Guy Calor, the Caulk King and CaulkWarmer