Labor Day is synonymous with barbecues, parties, and marking the unofficial end of summer. While everyone enjoys the long weekend that comes with the holiday, few Americans know its history.
Labor Day 2019 on September 2 marks the 125th anniversary of this national holiday. Celebrated the first Monday of September, the holiday was created by the labor movement to pay tribute to American workers and their contributions to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
The true founder of the holiday is unknown. Some people believe Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, first proposed a day to honor workers. Others believe Matthew Maguire, a machinist and secretary of the Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, was the founder. To learn more, visit the American Labor Museum in Haledon, NJ.
Regardless of who created the day, the founder’s intentions were clear - to give a holiday to the working population. In the late 1800s, Americans were working seven days a week and long hours to make a living. Even children were working in factories and mines. At the time, working conditions were poor. American labor began to rally and grow vocal in protest. Over time, the plight of American workers improved. The federal holiday was one of the ways to acknowledge how important worker’s contributions were to the economy and society. By 1894, Labor Day was a federal holiday.
Thankfully, most Americans no longer work 12- or 15-hours days, seven days a week, or endure harsh working conditions. However, many American are now plugged into their cell phone, computer, or other electronic device, and monitoring work issues 24/7.
As September 2 approaches, we should all take the time to take pride in the prosperity that Americans enjoy and be thankful that our present workforce is governed by laws aimed to keep employees safe and help them earn a livable wage. And, don’t forget to celebrate with family and friends. As for me, I will be wondering what happened to Summer of 2019.