Labor Day is an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated in the late 1800’s at the cusp of the Industrial Revolution when workers had 12 work-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to make the necessary living.
During this rough period, children, women, and immigrants faced severely unsafe working conditions without breaks or proper accommodations and none of the rights we have today had been possible without the events that occurred that year.
Given the situation, labor unions grew increasingly and became prominent and vocal. The unions called for strikes and protests to negotiate better work conditions some resulting in riots, especially the infamous Haymarket Riot of 1886, in which several Chicago police officers and workers were killed. Others gave rise to longstanding traditions:
- On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.
- The decision to make Labor Day the first Monday of September was approved on June 28, 1894.
- The Adamson Act was passed on September 3, 1916, to establish an eight-hour work day.
- Canada was the first country to celebrate Labor Day, In 1872, they held a “Nine-Hour Movement” to show support for striking workers.
- Say farewell to seersucker and white clothes: traditionally people did not wear white or seersucker clothes after Labor Day as it unofficially marked the end of summer.
- It was President Grover Cleveland who decided the first Monday of every September would be set aside to celebrate Labor Day. The move came during a railroad strike.
- Other countries celebrate Labor Day on May 1st.
- Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday in 1887.
- Congress made Labor Day an official nation-wide holiday in 1894.
- Labor Day is still celebrated in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays and other public gatherings.
Today’s workforce is protected
Great strides have been taken to improve worker’s rights since the first official Labor Day was recognized. Child labor has been abolished, safe and healthy work environments are guaranteed with federal laws such as Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), Black Lung Benefits Act (BLBA), Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) and many others, and the minimum wage compensation of workers has increased tremendously. Now it’s illegal to be discriminated against due to race, sex, religion, or color. Workers have access to health insurance, rights to sick leave, and family medical leave.
The responsibility falls to the employer to make sure they hire employees the right way, making sure that they avoid violating laws designed to protect American workers.
Enjoy your day off
Labor Day celebrates our workers, they drive America’s economy and embody the work ethic and will to create the best future possible, so here’s to you; Happy Labor Day!