It marks the end of summer, the beginning of the school season and the unofficial time to put summer’s white clothes to the back of the closet: Labor Day.
Labor Day is often viewed as simply a day away from work and a transition to fall activities, but don’t sell it short – the holiday is a federally-recognized nod to the American workers’ hard-won battles for basic rights many of us enjoy today.
Workplace rights that were nearly non-existent 100 years ago – health benefits, safe working conditions, decent treatment and fair wages – are fairly common today and we have early labor movements and the tenacity of the American worker to thank for that.
How exactly the holiday itself was first proposed around 1880 is still up for some debate. Some people will say Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, proposed the holiday. Others will tell you that Matthew Maguire, a machinist and later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. (source: dol.gov)
Regardless, the Labor Day holiday was first celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, with a picnic, concert and speeches and a 10,000-strong parade. On June 28, 1894, Congress made the first Monday in September a legal holiday.
So while you enjoy the well-earned day off and a long weekend with your family, take a minute to give a nod to the labor movements of the 1800s and what they did the for the modern-day workplace.