It's more than a symbolic end to summer and a few backyard barbeques and a day off from work, but what exactly is Labor Day?
Labor Day started in the late 1800s as a way to honor the American worker. During a time when Americans were working 12-hour days, seven days a week, to make ends meet, the social and economic state of the country predicted a dismal outlook for the future. As agricultural emphasis transitioned to a manufacturing one in America, labor unions began to form to protest sub-par working conditions, grueling hours and poor pay.
The first semblance of Labor Day took place on Sept. 5, 1882 in New York. According to History.com, as many as 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to Union Square, marking the day as the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history and creating a nationwide movement celebrating this “workingmen’s holiday.”
At a time when income was of utmost importance in a struggling America -- during the Industrial Revolution -- a worker's dedication to the Labor Day movement came at a cost. Until the holiday was passed by Congress until 1894, any worker choosing to participate in parade events on this day would forfeit an entire day’s wage.
In spring of 1894, the employee protest and subsequent strike as a result of wage cuts and firing of union representatives at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago met resistance from the federal government and ended in employee deaths after the troops were sent to break the strike. In an attempt at making peace with American workers following unrest, Congress passed the act to make Labor Day a legal holiday.
So it is on this day we rest and pay tribute to the American worker. We deserve it.
DID YOU KNOW?
- No one knows who actually started Labor Day, though historians suggest either Peter McGuire, a general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners or machinist Matthew Maguire. (US Dept. of Labor)
- Labor Day’s roots began in Toronto, Canada, in the 1870s over a strike against 58 hour work weeks. (Huffington Post)
- Oregon was the first state to declare Labor Day as a state holiday. (Huffington Post)
- Among all 153.2 million American workers, we can pay tribute to 6.1 million teachers, more than 3 million in protective services, 2.6 million registered nurses, nearly 20 million in office administration and at least 35 million corporate professionals. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics-2011)
- Nearly 6 million Americans work from home. (US Census Bureau-2009)
- Over 12 percent of American commuters, or 16.5 million, leave for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m. with an average commute of 25 minutes. More than 3 million workers commute 90 minutes or more.