The History of Labor Day


In modern society, Labor Day marks a day off from work and school, full of BBQs and family picnics and touch football games.

But the real history of the holiday has largely been forgotten. It’s not always taught in schools, nor does it have a clear meaning in popular culture. So, why are you getting the day off of work?

It all stared in Canada, a country that featured an annual festival to honor workers long before the United States.

There is a theory that the first proposal for a Labor Day in the United States was by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in May of 1882.  However, the secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York, Christy Hannah, is also credited with the holiday’s conception.

Over time, Labor Day was adopted in different states. Oregon was the first to make it a holiday in 1887 and in the following years, 30 more states followed suit.

But the real turning point came in 1894, as a result of the Pullman Strike. Following an unfair wage reduction and a refusal to reduce rent on a controlled employee community, 4,000 employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company went on strike keeping railroad traffic west of Chicago from moving through; that included mail carriers.  The strike spread across the nation to include 250,000 workers in 27 states.

The American Railway Union signed the workers into the union.  The Supreme Court ordered the allowance of mail train cars to be moved through the nation, but when the union refused, the government called in the Army and the U.S. Marshals. Several workers were killed before the strike was finally resolved.

President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday six days after the end of the strike, as a way to show support for America’s laborers.

So to honor the history of the day, enjoy taking the day off of work! Do the things you love to do and spend some time with your friends and family.  Happy Labor Day!



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