Labor Day

Happy Labor Day!

As an employment attorney, I thought it would be nice to share some interesting information regarding Labor Day.

Department of Labor Facts re Labor Day

  • Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.
  • The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886.
  • February 21, 1887 Oregon passed Labor Day bill. New York actually introduced the legislation first, but Oregon passed the law first.
  • On June 28, 1895, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Who First Proposed Labor Day?

It was a McGuire, but was it Peter or Matthew? Peter McGuire was the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. He also cofounded the American Federation of Labor. Some records he first suggested a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

Others say that Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York, proposed the holiday in 1882.

At the height of the U.S. Industrial Revolution Americans worked long days, oftentimes 7-days a week just to eke out a basic living. Children worked alongside adults in deplorable conditions, and immigrants often faced extremely unsafe working conditions. Workers began joining together in collectives and unions to fight the inhumane working conditions.  According to History.com, “on September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.”

Labor Day: A Fight for Change

For those that started the movement, Labor Day was more than just a day off from work. It was a statement that all workers deserve to be treated fairly. Many of us take modern working conditions for granted.

Ben Railton, an Associate Professor of English and American Studies at Fitchburg State University and a member of the Scholars Strategy Network says:

Like the American labor movement itself, these histories are messy, conflicted, include both triumphs and tragedies, aren’t easily boiled down into a straightforward narrative. But one clear takeaway is this: As with every victory achieved by the labor movement (including eight-hour workdays, the weekend, health protections, child labor laws, and numerous other successes), Labor Day would not exist without the movement’s more radical and activist elements and efforts. Remembering the holiday’s origins can thus help us not only celebrate all that the labor movement has achieved, but also recognize the continued need for radical activism.

Celebrate the last days of Summer. Enjoy time with your friends and family, but don’t forget the struggles of our forefathers that made this day possible.

Happy Labor Day!

Original article by Robert E. Nuddleman of Nuddleman Law Firm, P.C.

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