Labor Day, always the first Monday in September, is a holiday that here in America we take for granted as providing us with a 3-day weekend, but does anyone really give thought to what the holiday’s significance is. Labor Day was created by the labor movement and is dedicated to social and economic achievements of American workers.
In the 19th Century Americans started a tradition of having picnics, parades and various other celebrations to support labor issues. Then on September 5, 1882 a pivotal event occurred when a parade of unions and massive picnic took place in New York City. The labor movement had been gaining popularity and several unions proposed joining together for a monster labor festival. The Central Labor Union, which was comprised of members from many local unions, proposed the event on May 14, 1882. They selected Wendel’s Elm Park as the location to host the massive festival, Tickets to the event were sold, and proceeds went to each Union selling them. By June 20,000 tickets had been sold and in August the Central Labor Union passed a resolution “that the 5th of September be proclaimed a general holiday for the workingmen in this city.” The day of the event arrived. Workers participating had to lose a day’s pay to participate, but that did not deter people. An estimated 10,000-20,000 marchers participated in the parade, and everyone continued to celebrate with food, music and fireworks.
Labor Day was not initially recognized as a national holiday. In 1885 and 1886 municipal ordinances provided the first recognition of Labor Day. Then Oregon passed the first law on February 21, 1887, followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York a year later. Popularity continued to grow, with more and more states adopting the holiday until in 1894 Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each an every year a legal holiday.
So today as you are enjoying your picnics, family gatherings, traveling, or what ever activity it is that you do on this holiday that has come to signal the end of summer and beginning of school in many states, remember those men and women who lost a day of pay to promote the working man so that you could today enjoy the fruit of their efforts.