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The First Monday of September: The History of Labor Day

You are currently viewing The First Monday of September: The History of Labor Day
Labor Day is right around the corner, so learn more about the day you'll be celebrating!
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As one of the days that floats around a bit, Labor Day is set for September 4th this year. For many, Labor Day is simply a three-day weekend marking the end of summer. However, to others, it is a true day to celebrate and honor. If you are one of the people who just enjoys the free day off, we ask, do you know the history of the day?

What is Labor Day?

Labor Day is a day meant to celebrate workers and laborers and what they do for the country. The day started during the American Industrial Revolution. At this time, the average working conditions were awful. The typical American worker had 12-hour workdays, doing hard and heavy labor, working seven days a week. Children were even put to work in most places, starting as early as five or six years old. They worked in mills, factories, and mines throughout the country, working long hours and earning less. For the adults as well wages were extremely low, even though work was long and tedious. In addition, working conditions were unsafe and unsanitary.

Labor unions eventually started, and they would unite workers to demand changes to their working conditions. The unions held strikes and protests to fight against the poor working conditions, long hours, and little pay.

One strike led to the celebration of Labor Day.

In New York City, on September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took to the streets in front of City Hall to protest in the first Labor Day Parade. This inspired other Labor Day events elsewhere and in different industries, with people loving the idea of a “workingmen’s holiday.” People liked the concept of the holiday being celebrated on the first Monday of September rather than a specific date. This allowed a guarantee that Labor Day always fell on a regular working day.

Congress eventually signed the holiday into law in 1894, 12 years after the first Labor Day celebration. In 1894, there was one of the largest and most violent labor strikes in history, with the employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago. The strike got so extreme that U.S. troops were deployed and more than a dozen workers striking were killed. In an attempt to keep the peace, Congress and President Grover Cleveland passed the holiday into formal law.

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