Labor Day, commonly observed on the first Monday in September, stems from a long tradition of hard work and pays tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers.
At the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days, 7 days a week as a way to sustain a basic living. And, children as young as 5, worked alongside adults in factories and mines for a fraction of what the adults were making in unsafe working conditions, lack of fresh air and unsanitary facilities.
In the late 18th century, labor unions began popping up. Organized strikes and rallies protested poor working conditions and prompted employers to renegotiate hours and pay. These protests often turned violent.
New York City held the first Labor Day parade on September 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square. The Central Labor Union encouraged organizations in other cities to follow suit and celebrate a “workingsmen’s holiday.” The holiday became legal in several states before Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894.
From rallies demonstrating the strength of the trade and labor organizations to speeches focused on the economic significance of the holiday, Labor Day, including the first celebration 120 years ago, has always included time for families to relax and have fun. Over the years, though, the focus of Labor Day has become less on labor and more on leisure.
Whatever you have planned this weekend, we’d like to ask you to take a minute to reflect on the contributions American workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of this country.