For many, Labor Day marks the unofficial end to summer. Most people enjoy the extended holiday weekend, but few realize the history of the holiday. The first observance of the holiday was in the late 1800s. Local parties were held at the end of the picnic season. The end-of-the-summer parties is one of the reasons the tradition of Labor Day occurs in early September.
What is Labor Day? On the first Monday of September, the United States celebrates Labor Day. According to the US Department of Labor, Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of the American worker.
Only the United States and Canada celebrate Labor Day. Many other countries observe International Worker’s Day, which falls on May 1st, or May Day.
In 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City. This was the nation’s first Labor Day parade.
What is the history behind Labor Day? In the late-1800s, many American workers were working 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week. Children as young as five were working in mines, mills and factories. Labor unions were established to help combat work-related difficulties such as long workdays, low pay and unsanitary work conditions.
Labor union leaders Peter J. McGuire and Matthew Maguire each are said to have advocated for a holiday in New York City in 1882. Who the true founder of Labor Day is, is still debated.
The idea of a holiday celebrating the working man on the first Monday in September caught on in other industrial areas around the country.
While New York was the first state to introduce a bill officially recognizing Labor Day, Oregan was the first to codify it into law in 1887.
By 1984, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law making Labor Day a national public holiday.