LABOR DAY: WHAT IT MEANS
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is an annual celebration of workers and their achievements. The holiday was founded in the later 1800’s and the founders had envisioned something very different from what the day has become today. The founders were looking for two things: a means of unifying union workers and a reduction in work time. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to earn a basic living. Today we often think of Labor Day as “a day off,” but the reason we have this holiday off is because men fought and even died for this day.
In the 1800s labor unions grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest the poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiates hours and pay. The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday” caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5,1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 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. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1884 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday – a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and espirt de corps of the trade and labor organization” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day.
The vigorous force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.
From the Duane Mainardi Builders team, Happy Labor Day!