Labor Day - Celebrating the American Worker
While for many, the first Monday in September simply marks the end of summer and the beginning of football season, Labor Day was created as a recognition and celebration of our labor force. As the backbone and foundation of our country, our workforce is a daily reminder of the strength, dedication, and leadership that founded this nation.
For many years, the "common" worker was regarded as merely another expense, rather than individual, valuable people. Employers would require hard labor in poor conditions for even poorer pay. Individual requests for a better situation were barely heard, therefore, workers banded together to be heard. Through the formation of unions, laborers fought for reasonable pay, safe working conditions, and the right to be heard and recognized for their contributions. Workers' unions have worked hard to become a pillar of workers' rights and strive to provide a strong voice that stands for the individual laborer.
In an early effort to be recognized, the first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. It was organized by the Central Labor Union, which was composed of representatives of many of the local labor unions. Nearly 10,000 workers marched from City Hall, past Union Square, to Wendel's Elm Park for a picnic, concert, and speeches. While historians debate as to who first came up with the idea of a Labor Day, most agree that organized labor unions chose this method to demonstrate their strength and the importance of the worker in American society. It has been speculated that the particular day was chosen because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving, which also were important holidays for the United States. The second Labor Day was celebrated on the same day a year later.
The Central Labor Union urged other similar organizations to celebrate a "workingman's holiday" on the same day. By 1885, Labor Day was gaining momentum and was written into some city ordinances. The first state to pass Labor Day into law was Oregon in February 1887. Four additional states followed suit that year. By 1890, three more states adopted the holiday. Over the next four years even more states honored our workers with a holiday, and in 1894, a proposal was finally passed into law that Labor Day was instituted as a nationally recognized holiday to be observed on the first Monday in September.
Originally, Labor Day celebrations were a result of political organizing. Even the celebrations were organized exclusively for the working class, with a street parade followed by a festival specifically for the workers and their families. As time went on and more emphasis was placed on the significance of this holiday, and the importance of our workers was more widely recognized, speeches by prominent individuals and groups became more common at these celebrations. Over 100 years later, Labor Day has evolved into a well-recognized and celebrated holiday where we officially thank all of the men and women who have helped to forward our country.
Click here to read some great quotes such as:
"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work."
"All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence."
~Martin Luther King Jr.
"Work isn't to make money; you work to justify life."
"Without labor nothing prospers."
"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it."