In the United States, Labor Day is an annual celebration of workers and the American labor movement, dedicated to the achievements of the workforce. It’s celebrated on the first Monday in September as a day off work for all American workers. These days, most people see Labor Day as the unofficial end of summer and use the holiday for one last party or cookout with family and friends.
The Labor Day holiday originated when the working conditions of our country were the most abysmal. At the height of the Industrial Revolution during the late 1800s, the average American worked 12-hour days, 7 days a week just to make a living wage. Conditions at the workplace were also dire, with insufficient fresh air, unsanitary conditions and very few breaks. Even children as young as six years old were exposed to the workforce, earning a fraction of their parents’ wages to try to help make ends meet.
Labor organizations began to form and become more prominent and vocal, organizing strikes and rallies to protest these poor working conditions. The first Labor Day parade took place the weekend of September 5, 1882 in New York City, when over 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square.
During those years, many of these parades turned violent. One of the most infamous events took place in May of 1886- the Haymarket Massacre in Chicago, when several workers and police officers were killed.
By 1887, Labor Day was established as an official holiday, first becoming law in Oregon in February. In 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September a legal holiday. This was done in a rush after the Pullman Strike, when employees went on strike to protest wage cuts and called for a boycott of the railway cars, and were met with violence from the U.S. Military. Many workers died, and as an attempt to repair the ties with the workers, Congress made Labor Day an official holiday.
It’s been more than 100 years since the first Labor Day observance, and we still don’t know where the idea first originated. It’s generally believed that either Matthew Maguire, a machinist who served as secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York, or Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor proposed the idea.
Indiana’s first Labor Day Celebration was held in 1886 in Princeton, Indiana- eight years before Labor Day was declared an official holiday. The celebration might be the second-oldest in the nation.
Today, Labor Day is celebrated throughout the country with picnics and parades, and even some fireworks displays. Not much has changed since the holiday originated. It’s still a day for the American worker to relax and enjoy a day in celebration of all their achievements, as well as the strength and freedom of our country.
American Senior Communities wishes all our residents and their families a wonderful Labor Day weekend!
For more information about American Senior Communities, please visit www.ascseniorcare.com/.