3    Sep 20123 comments

Labor Day: Honoring America’s workers

Today, the first Monday in September, is Labor Day in the US. The legal holiday has been celebrated for more than 100 years and came out of the labor movement. It is a tribute to contributions made by workers.

To many, however, the three-day weekend is the last blast of summer, with many communities’ schools opening on the day after.

For more on the holiday, look at the Department of Labor's Labor Day 2012 page, with videos, resources and more.

Although more than a century old, the actual founder of the day is not certain. Some believe that the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, Peter J. McGuire, who was also a founder of the American Federation of Labor, was the first to suggest a day to honor workers. Others believe that a machinist, Matthew Maguire – we don’t know if he was related to Peter - founded the day.

The DOL states that recent research leans to Matthew, who suggested the holiday in 1882 when he was secretary of New York’s Central Labor Union (CLU). In any case, the CLU adopted the proposal and a committee planned a celebration.

The first one was held on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. In 1884, the holiday moved to the first Monday. The CLU urged similar organizations in other cities to celebrate the “workingmen’s holiday,” and the idea spread.

Eventually, government and state legislatures passed laws for the Labor Day holiday. In 1894, Congress made the day a legal holiday.

Originally, the proposal included a street parade for the public, and a festival for the workers and their families. Today, many families celebrate with barbecues, picnics and other festivities, and enjoy the last days of summer.

When we were children, our grandparents had a summer resort in the famous Catskill Mountains of New York. The Labor Day celebration was the somewhat bittersweet end-of-summer event - when we realized the summer vacation was over. My grandparents put on a great spread, usually held on Sunday, and the families left on Monday to return to New York City for the opening of school.

What did you on Labor Day when you were a child? How do you celebrate the holiday now? Share your comments below.

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Comments (3) Trackbacks (0)
  1. I don't have any problem with having a labor day as long as we don't turn it into Labor Union Day. We could celebrate it even more if all states were right to work states and we did away with the Department of Labor entirely. Unfortunately, it has become the Department of Unions.
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