Labor Day

Updated: Nov 10, 2020

by Betzaira Ruiz

What is Labor Day? Labor Day is a holiday created for the labor movement. It is celebrated every year on the first week of September and this year we are celebrating it on Monday, September 7, 2020. This holiday represents the workers “strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country” (U.S Department of Labor Seal). One of the main reasons why this holiday was created was because there was massive unrest of the American workers, and the government wanted to find a way to celebrate them. The first Labor Day was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City, where about ten thousand workers marched to City Hall.

Labor Day Street Parade via U.S. Department of Labor

A state bill to establish a holiday was first introduced in New York, but the first state to pass this law was Oregon on February 21, 1887. After Oregon passed the law, four more states followed; Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. By 1890, 3 more states followed and by 1894, 23 states added Labor Day as their holiday.  On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act that made the first Monday in September a holiday. It is unknown who first proposed Labor Day, but it is believed it was Peter J. McGuire because one day he suggested “a day to honor those who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.’” One of the main reasons why it is celebrated in September is because McGuire liked the idea of having a holiday between the 4th of July and Thanksgiving.

Parade Spectators via Library of Congress

When the holiday first started, many celebrated with street parades to demonstrate the strength and spirit of the trade and labor organizations. This day is still being celebrated across the United States with picnics, parades, barbecues, etc. On this holiday, many take time to reflect about their work conditions and how they can improve them. For many Americans, especially children and young adults, it represents the end of summer and the start of a new school year. It also represented an official date to kick off the national political campaigns. Many countries celebrate May Day as their national Labor Day holiday, but we celebrate it on the first week of September. It is not uncommon that people in the United States today do not always realize the significance behind Labor Day, and just see the holiday as a day to relax away from work and school. While taking the day to celebrate personal achievements and hard work is certainly important, it is equally important to recognize the overarching meaning behind the holiday, and why it began.


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