Americans symbolize Labor Day with the end of summer, the start of the new school season, and cooler temperatures. Labor Day is celebrated across the U.S. with barbeques, parades, athletic events, and public gatherings. This year we may have to find some alternative ways to celebrate because of the COVID-19 pandemic. If you need help planning some COVID-friendly activities take a look at this article, Enjoy That Last Gasp of Summer.
So what’s the meaning behind Labor Day — and how did it become a federal holiday?
Do you get any of the following?
- Weekends off
- Eight-hour workdays
- Lunch breaks
- Paid vacation
- Social security
If you said “yes” to any of these, you can thank the labor unions. Today we normalize these advancements, but years ago they fought hard to implement them. Thanks to those who fought for better conditions we can enjoy the most basic benefits at our jobs today.
On the first Monday in September, we take the day off to celebrate Labor Day and pay tribute to the American worker.
History Behind Labor Day
Labor Day originated in the 1800s at the top of the Industrial Revolution in the United States. During this time, the average American worked 12-hour days seven days a week. Regardless of the restrictions that were in place, children as young as 6 worked in mills, factories, and mines earning significantly less than the adult’s wages. Many people, especially those who were poor and recent immigrants faced extremely unsafe and unsanitary working conditions.
As demand heightened and conditions got worse the labor unions grew more prominent and vocal. They organized strikes and rallies to protest these poor conditions and urge employers to renegotiate hours and pay.
The very first Labor Day Holiday was celebrated on September 5th, 1882 in New York City. By 1894, 23 states had adopted the holiday. Later that same year a law was signed making the first Monday in September a federal holiday recognized nationwide.
“No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.