Labor Day in the USA is celebrated on the first Monday of September month to mark the respect towards the immense contribution made by the American workers in the development of the USA. Labour Day, as it can also be termed as, is marked as a public holiday in the States, and its importance can be gauged by the fact that it is counted among the ten federal holidays.
Labour Day celebration is the way to pay rich tribute to the immense contribution of the American workers towards the growth & development of the American economy. Labor Day in the USA also denotes the various economic and social goals achieved by the American workers.
Why is Labor Day celebrated in the United States?
For many of the people across USA & Canada, Labour Day meaning is just another holiday and an opportunity to take a much-needed break from the grueling schedule! However, it is important to understand the significance of one of the federal holidays in the USA.
The original thought behind the Labor Day celebration was to pay tribute to the sheer grit and determination of the American workers who toiled hard in building the strong infrastructure and making the USA a prosperous country.
With the onset of the industrial revolution in the USA, American workers slogged hard and relentlessly worked towards building roads, railway tracks, dams, etc. They were selfless soldiers who were passionate about the core and played a pivotal role in giving shape to the present state of this enormous country! It was physically demanding and long hours work but these workers didn’t give up and continued to toil hard and burn the midnight oil!
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Labor Day Foundation
It’s been more than a century that the Labour Day in the USA came into existence, but it is not yet clear who pioneered the concept of Labour Day. As per some references, Peter. J. McGuire (Co-founder of American Federation of Labor) took the initiative of proposing a day to pay respect to the workers.
However, some records depict that there was a Machinist named Matthew Maguire and not Peter. J. McGuire who laid the foundation of Labour Day! As per some recent research work, Matthew proposed for this holiday in the year 1982 while he was the secretary of the local branch of the international association of the Machinist in the state of New Jersey.
History of the Labor Day
It all started in the late 18th century. The circumstances back then were horrendous and inhuman! The American workers were working nonstop in the most pathetic conditions without a break. They were working in physically strenuous jobs for long hours and without any interruptions. These jobs didn’t pay much, and even children were working in the mines, factories, and farms.
There was no safety at all, and the overall environment was very harsh. Amidst such conditions, American workers organized a parade on 5th September 1882 when they marched together from the city hall of the New York City to a big picnic spot in a park situated uptown.
Approximately 10,000 workers marched in a very peaceful manner and in absolute order. The group comprised of printers, dressmakers, bricklayers, cigar makers, etc. This Labor Day parade was published the next day on the last page of the New York Times with the headline read as “Working men on Parade”.
This was indeed a risk taken by all these workers because it was not yet officially announced as a holiday. These workers took a risk by participating in this strike, and their demands were for fair wages, 8 hours’ workday and that the convicted labor should be prohibited from the employment.
This Labor movement was one of the greatest movements in the world in those times. As a result, states and municipalities started to recognize Labour Day in the coming years. The intensity began to reach burgeoning heights, and the parade began to loom larger!
However, as the legend goes that Rome was not built in a day! The Federal Government still took some more years to declare it as a national holiday! The reason was obviously political! The big strike broke out in 1894 in the Pullman Palace Car Company because the management reduced the wages without lowering the monthly rent in the Pullman town where workers resided!
The situation agitated the workers, and they revolted against this unfair decision. As a result, the workers were fired. The strike was joined by American Railway union as well which was led by Eugene. V. Debs. The situation aggravated quickly, and workers stopped working. Soon, it turned violent, and management fired more people.
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When Did Labour Day Become A National Holiday?
Understanding the gravity of the situation, then-president Grover Cleveland approved the bill on 28th June 1894 making Labor Day in the USA as a national holiday. As per some of the historians, the strategy behind this step was to woo the working-class voters and get their support. There were several other political advantages that president Cleveland wanted to exploit apart from these votes!
Soon the workers started to protest more and revolted for 8 hours fixed working day. In the coming years, more and more American states began to recognize Labor Day, and soon it became a popular holiday in the States.
The Present Form Of Labor Day
In recent times, protests & the labor movements have weakened, and people have started to enjoy Barbeques, purchasing stuff in the sale and going to the beaches. Especially in New York City, people either take an out of town vacation or enjoy the gigantic West Indian American Day parade in Brooklyn.