Sept. 3, 2012
While Labor Day is best known for picnics, parades and the last big holiday of summer, many people don't know the true origins of this holiday.
When is Labor Day Celebrated?
Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September. For 2012, Labor Day falls on Sept. 3.
Why do we celebrate Labor Day?
Labor Day is the one day that honors the contributions of working men and women to America’s social and economic life.
When was Labor Day first celebrated in the United States?
On Sept. 5, 1882, when about 20,000 working people marched in New York City to demand an eight-hour workday and other labor law reforms. In a parade up Broadway, sponsored by New York’s Central Labor Union, they carried banners reading, “Labor Creates All Wealth” and “Eight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest, Eight Hours for Recreation.” About a quarter million New Yorkers turned out to watch. The fight to preserve overtime pay continues to this Labor Day more than a century later.
When did Labor Day become a national holiday?
After the first Labor Day in New York City, celebrations began to spread to other states as workers fought to win workplace rights and better working conditions and wages at a time when they had little power. In 1893, New York City workers took an unpaid day off and marched around Union Square in support of a national Labor Day. The following year, 12,000 federal troops were called into Pullman, Ill., to break up a huge strike against the Pullman railway company and two workers were shot and killed by U.S. deputy marshals. In what most historians call an election year attempt to appease workers after the federal crackdown on the Pullman strike, shortly after the strike was broken, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation making the first Monday in September Labor Day and a federal holiday. Cleveland lost the election.
Who founded Labor Day?
That’s a matter of dispute among historians. Some say Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, first suggested a day to honor workers. Others credit Matthew Maguire, a machinist who served as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.
Is Labor Day just about unions?
No. The U.S. Department of Labor describes Labor Day this way: “It is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”
What international holiday is Labor Day’s closest relative?
May Day. In 1889, a workers’ congress in Paris voted to support the U.S. labor movement’s demand for an eight-hour workday. It chose May 1, 1890, as a day of demonstrations in favor of the eight-hour day. Afterward, May 1 became a holiday called Labor Day in many nations. It resembles the September holiday in the United States.