Every September, Americans look forward to a long weekend and a day off from work for our beloved “end of summer” holiday: Labor Day. This day was created to celebrate the American worker and the trade and labor groups that support them.
Observance of the Labor Day holiday evolved over a period of years, but most historians agree that the true start of Labor Day ties back to a parade and picnic that took place in New York City on September 5, 1882.
“A general holiday for the workingmen in this city”
The labor movement at that time grew stronger when many of the New York local unions joined to form a Central Labor Union. On May 14, 1882, it was proposed that all workers join together for a “monster labor festival” in early September. By June, they had sold 20,000 tickets with the proceeds going to each local union selling them. In August, the Central Labor Union passed a resolution “that the 5th of September be proclaimed a general holiday for the workingmen in this city.”
At first, they were afraid that the celebration was going to be a failure because many of the workers would have to lose a day’s pay in order to participate. Things got off to a slow start, but ultimately it was estimated that 10,000 joined the parade in support of workers. The party lasted well into the evening and newspapers of the day declared it a huge success and “a day of the people.”
Labor Day is established
After that major event in New York City, other localities began to pick up the idea for a fall festival of parades and picnics celebrating workers. Encouraged by the labor movement, Labor Day’s first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886, followed by an Oregon state bill in 1887. On June 28, 1894, Congress made it a federal holiday and designated the first Monday in September as its official date.
However you spent your Labor Day holiday, we hope you enjoyed a well-earned day off!