Today is Labor Day and, ironically, we celebrate it by not laboring. That’s right, for the majority of American’s today, we celebrate Labor Day by getting an extended three-day weekend to vacation, relax, or do whatever else our hearts desire.
In case you didn’t know, this year is the 125th anniversary of Labor Day being celebrated as a national holiday and what it is, is the celebration of the American worker. The U.S. Department of Labor defines Labor Day as this: “Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
The first time the government recognized Labor Day was when municipal ordinances passed in 1885 and 1886. From these ordinances, a movement was developed to secure state legislation. After this, the first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but it was actually Oregon who became the first to pass it into law on February 21, 1887. More states followed suite in the years to come, but it wasn’t until June 28, 1894 that Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
It wasn’t an easy fight though to get this holiday passed, which came about by those fighting to start getting more fair working conditions and wages in this time. According to history.com, Labor Day “…originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks. As manufacturing increasingly supplanted agriculture as the wellspring of American employment, labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.”
There is far more to this historical time than can fit into one small blog, but read the history channels full article here to get all the details.
This Labor Day, while we’re grilling, relaxing, and spending time with our loved ones, let’s try to remember those who’ve gone before us to fight for many of the freedoms and rights we have today within in the workplace. AND, thanks to them, we get a long holiday weekend!