I know it’s still about 10 days away, but as I was looking at my September calendar, I noticed Labor Day. There it was, sitting in its usual spot on the first Monday of the month. As I stared at the September 5th box, I asked myself some very ignorant questions (hopefully I didn’t ask them out loud): What is Labor Day? Is that just an excuse for a day off? Is there a significance to the fact that it’s on the first Monday of September?
I pulled up my old friend Google and got to work. I sincerely hope that the information I’m about to share, or at least some of it, is news to you as well. Don’t make me feel bad. Anyway….
Back in the late 1800s, there definitely was a whole lot of good going on: the Industrial Revolution brought the dawn of urbanization, factories, mass production, machinery, steam, iron and the like. The downside? The middle and upper classes’ riches only increased as the working class experienced vast decay. Dismal working conditions, lower wages and longer hours were the new normal for the poor. They were used to bad already, but it was now worse. Labor unions began to speak against the working conditions and demand reduced hours and higher pay. Riots and protests ensued.
On September 5, 1882, thousands of workers marched in New York City – the first Labor Day Parade. This concept spread to several states but was not recognized as a legal holiday until 1894.
Labor Day is now celebrated with barbecues, back-to-school parties, fireworks, festivals and parades. However, it was instituted in a time of massive turmoil in the American workforce. It symbolizes so much more than the end of summer.
As you enjoy all of the benefits of this Labor Day, take a moment to think about what it took to get to this place: 80-hour work weeks, a penniless populace, class dissonance and the spark of revolution. And on the first Monday of September, take at least a few moments to be thankful for those that were brave enough to stand up for basic “workman’s” rights.
Historical Information gathered from History.com.