Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

by | Aug 26, 2019 | Holidays | 0 comments

Labor Day is a holiday that started during the Industrial Age in the late 19th century.  It began as a labor movement to celebrate the contributions and achievements of American workers. Why? During the late 1800s, many people moved away from living in rural areas to the cities.  Most of these people worked in factories in which the typical work week was 12 hours of day, 7 days a week. In addition, the workers received low wages and no paid vacations or sick time. They also had very little voice in working conditions of factories and no labor laws governing working conditions.  As a result, many deaths occurred in factories from tired or sick workers including children.

By the late 1880s, workers started forming unions and protesting working conditions often by striking for better pay and work hours. On September 5, 1882 in New York City, 10,000 unpaid workers held the first Labor Day parade from City Hall to Union Square. The first state to legalize Labor Day was Oregon in February of 1887 followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York in the same year.  Many states legalized Labor Day before Congress passed the bill and President Glover Cleveland legalized the Federal holiday of Labor Day on June 28, 1894.  The holiday is always held on the first Monday of September.* 

Labor Day is a symbolism of pride of the workmanship and craftsmanship of American workers. It’s a remembrance of American workers who fought to improve working conditions and gain sick days and paid vacations.  Many of the work benefits we have today in our jobs are the results of these protests and strikes in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Next time you are in the store buying an item, look at the bottom of it and see if it says “made in the US.” If it does, buy it and show your support of American industries.

*Dates courtesy of US Department of Labor.