On the first Monday of September, Labor Day, a Federal U.S. holiday, is observed. Even though school typically begins before Labor Day, it is considered the official end of summer and the celebration right before getting serious and settling down with studies. Picnics, fireworks, parades and parties are everywhere during Labor Day weekend. What are the origins of this Federal holiday?
The Labor Unions. In the 19th century, factory labor involved extremely long hours and poor working conditions. If workers had a problem with these terms, they were immediately fired and were considered easily replaceable. Since factories also employed women and children, they were a guaranteed form of income for starving families and homeless children. However, the labor was so intense and involved so much hardship, employees began to rally together to form unions in order to acquire more power and receive better conditions.
The First Labor Days. Labor Day began to be celebrated in New York City in 1882. A huge parade showing twenty thousand workers representing their unions and carrying huge banners and signs marched down the streets. Though it began in New York City, by 1885 it was being celebrated by many large cities in the United States. The banners and signs of the unions displayed demands and proposals for different working conditions, different hours and even other holidays.
The Incident. In 1894, many factory workers were killed by the U.S. military and the U.S. Marshals during a nationwide dispute between railroads and labor unions, known as the Pullman Strike. The killings brought about great controversy and President Grover Cleveland sought for an immediate reconciliation between the labor movement and the government. The legislation making Labor Day as a Federal holiday passed through Congress unanimously and without disagreement and was signed into law only six days after the end of the Pullman Strike.
Today we celebrate Labor Day as an official acknowledgement of the working man and what industrialization has brought to the standard of living and the development of the United States as a whole. Originally, it was instated as a holiday for the working class between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving. And yes, it is much better to have a forty-hour work week than a seventy-two-hour work week.