2023 is flying by and in the blink of an eye, we are already approaching Labor Day. Observed this year on September 4th, Labor Day is just a week away. To many, Labor Day is nothing more than a three-day weekend and the metaphorical end of summer. However, to others, it is a true day to celebrate and honor. The many who do not celebrate and honor the day for what it is likely do not know all of the history and significance of the day. But have no worry, that is what we are here to change!
What exactly is Labor Day celebrating?
Labor Day is a day meant to celebrate workers and all they do for the country. The day started during the American Industrial Revolution. At this time, the average person’s working conditions were horrendous, leaving many exhausted and angry. The typical American worker had 12-hour workdays, doing hard and heavy labor, and would work seven days a week. Children were even often seen working, starting as early as five or six years old. They would be put to work in mills, factories, and mines throughout the country, working long hours too. For the adults and children, wages were low, despite the amount of work being done.
Additionally, the working conditions were often unsafe and unsanitary. There was a lack of proper ventilation in most places, so people had limited access to fresh air. Most places of work also lacked sanitary facilities and bathrooms. Lastly, many employers did not allow for breaks, meaning most workers would work 12 hours straight.
At this time, labor unions started forming and would unite workers to stand up for themselves and demand labor reform. They would call for regulations on what working hours were allowed, as well as safety regulations to keep them protected at work. The unions frequently would hold strikes and protests to fight against the poor working conditions.
One such strike turned into Labor Day as we know it today.
On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers in New York City took the day off to hold a Labor Day Parade in front of City Hall. This started the ball rolling elsewhere and in different industries, lighting the fire of the idea of a “workingmen’s holiday.” The idea stuck to keep the holiday around the same time, having it set for the first Monday of September.
Congress officially formalized the holiday 12 years later in 1894. They took this formal action in response to a labor strike that started in Chicago with the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene v. Debs. The strike got very dangerous, and Congress and President Grover Cleveland passed the holiday into law as a means to make peace.
Today, whether you celebrate Labor Day or not, it is a day most employees have off and can at the very least rest and relax.