Labor Day: How It began & What it represents

Labor Day is an annual celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers, held on the first Monday in September. The celebration dates back to the late 1800s, when labor advocates campaigned for a federal holiday to honor the tremendous contributions employees have made to the strength, wealth, and welfare of the United States. If you want to learn more about this subject, you’re at the right place! 

How it Began?

The Pullman Palace Car Company cut wages in its factories during the 1890s economic depression. Dissatisfied workers join the American Railway Union (ARU), led by Eugene V. Debs, which supported their strike by launching a nationwide boycott of all Pullman vehicles. Members of the ARU around the country refused to load Pullman cars onto trains. On June 26, 1894, the entire ARU attacked the railroads after these switchmen were punished. Within four days, 125,000 personnel on twenty-nine railroads had walked off the job because they didn't want to deal with Pullman cars.

Debs hosted a calm meeting in Blue Island, Illinois on June 29, 1894, to garner support for the railroad workers' strike. Following that, furious crowd members set fire to surrounding buildings and derailed a railroad. Sympathy strikes in other western states blocked products from being transported by walking off the work, blocking railroad tracks, or threatening and attacking strikebreakers. This drew more public attention and prompted calls for federal action.

The strike was broken up by US Marshals and 2,000 US Army troops dispatched by President Grover Cleveland on the grounds that it was interfering with the delivery of US mail. Thirteen employees were killed and 57 were injured during the strike.

Who Created it? 

Labor Day was created by labor union leader Peter J. Maguire (although recent research suggests it was his brother Matthew's idea), who proposed a holiday commemorating the American worker in 1882. Peter Maguire was a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor and the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

According to recent research, while acting as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York, Matthew Maguire, afterwards the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882. What we know for certain is that the Central Labor Union approved and implemented a Labor Day proposal.

When is it celebrated? 

According to the Central Labor Union's plans, the first Labor Day holiday was observed on September 5, 1882, in New York City. A year later, on September 5, 1883, the Central Labor Union staged its second Labor Day holiday. The concept of this holiday gained on in other industrial cities across the country, and several states approved legislation to recognize it. The holiday was not officially recognized by Congress until May 11, 1894, when employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest salary cuts and the termination of union representatives, bringing workers' rights front and center in the public eye. Labor Day has been celebrated on the first Monday in September since 1894. Labor Day 2021 will occur on Monday, September 6.

How is it celebrated? 

The original Labor Day celebrations were parades intended to demonstrate to the public “the power and esprit de corps of the community's trade and labor organizations,” followed by festivals aimed at providing pleasure and entertainment for workers and their families. The day's highlights included speeches by major union officials, businesspeople, educators, priests, and government officials.

Parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, and other public gatherings are still held in cities and towns around the United States on Labor Day.

Conclusion: Labor Day's significance in the United States has shifted over time. It marks the conclusion of summer and the beginning of the back-to-school season for many Americans, particularly children and young adults. Simultaneously, it has continued to be commemorated with parades, speeches, and political rallies, and the day is occasionally used as the formal start date for national political campaigns.



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