The Story Of First Labor Day

August 31, 2020 4 min read

The Story Of First Labor Day

More Than BBQs, Festivals and the End of Summer

 

Labor Day is better known as that holiday in the beginning of September that marks the end of summer vacation and the beginning of school season. People typically imagine it’s a time to go to barbecues, have family time, go travel, and enjoy local festivals and carnivals.

If you were to ask any layman about the origins and the reason we observe Labor Day, they might tell you it has something to do with labor. That’s about as in-depth people know about this holiday.

The original reason for celebrating Labor has faded, but the people are right; it does have something to do with ‘labor’.



Why We Celebrate Labor Day

 

The foundation of American was built on hard work and labor. Everything from the construction of buildings, pipe laying, and developing city infrastructure to carpentry, mason work, and tile setting was accomplished because of those blue-collared workers who were willing to get to work.

Labor Day is dedicated to the American workers that help progress the economy and society. It’s an annual tribute to the achievements workers have made to the greater well-being and prosperity of the United States.



In other words, it’s a day to remember and thank construction workers and the labor force of America for making our country the developed country it is today.


Origins

 

New York was considered to be a hot spot for labor activists since the Industrial Revolution first began, but the beginnings of Labor Day as we know it started with a simple idea in the heart of New York City back in 1882. 

Started by 2 construction groups, ‘Labor Day’ came as a result of labor unions getting worker’s rights throughout the 19th century. Most workers at the time worked six days a week, 10 or 12 hours a day. There were no paid vacations, no sick days and very few breaks. They wanted to put an end to low wages, long hours, unsafe working conditions and child labor.

Two major labor groups, known as the Knights of Labor and the Tailor’s Union, worked together and together became the Central Labor Union of New York, Brooklyn, and Jersey City, or the CLU–in January of 1882 to promote similar goals. 

They wanted to see fairer wages, a shorter eight-hour workday and bring an end to child labor. The CLU also proposed the country recognize and celebrate American workers with parades once a year. 

It was these combined efforts of the CLU that led to the first unofficial ‘celebration’ of Labor Day. On September 5, 1882, over 20,000 workers rallied together and paraded from City Hall all the way to Union Square. Picnics, concerts and speeches were also held in celebration.



Making Labor Day Official


These parades were first called ‘the workingman’s holiday’ and they were starting to spread to other cities. 

However, it wasn’t until 1886-1887 when ordinances were passed that the government began to recognize this holiday. When that happened, measures were taken to get the holiday passed through legislation in New York.

New York was the first state to present the bill but oddly enough, the first state to actually pass it and recognize Labor Day as an official holiday was Oregon on February 21, 1887. Later in the year, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York officially marked Labor Day as a holiday. Before 1890, Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania did the same. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday. 

On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act that made the first Monday in September a legal holiday in Washington D.C.


Who Really Created Labor Day

 

Even after 138 years of celebrating Labor Day, there’s still some grey areas in terms of who actually proposed the holiday, but it comes down to 2 individuals.

According to records, Peter McGuire was actually the founder of the holiday. Peter was the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners as well as a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor (AFL.)

However, the person given the most credit to proposing Labor Day was Matthew McGuire. Known as a machinist, Matthew was secretary of the Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J. in 1882 while also serving as a secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

It’s important to note that no major activity was planned until the CLU took action and organized the first parade.

 

Celebrating Labor Day

 

Festivals have always been part of the Labor Day tradition since 1882 and make for a great time with friends and family. 

While it’s wonderful to spend time with loved ones, it’s also a day to be grateful for the construction workers and blue-collar works from the past and today. We wouldn’t have the infrastructure or the convenience of living the way we do now without them.

It’s also important to talk about working conditions, equal rights and better pay; that’s what ignited the Labor Day holiday.

Give thanks to your local construction workers and everyone who works hard on this day, for they’re the backbone of our great country.



We would also like to give thanks to all of you who work hard to keep this nation together. The work isn’t easy and it takes someone with mental toughness and fortitude to get to work.

It’s for you that we’re offering something special this Labor Day holiday! We have some spectacular offers that are coming over very soon!