The History of Labor Day

By August 31, 2022Blog
The History of Labor Day

Labor Day, which is typically marked on the first Monday in September, honors the contributions and accomplishments of American workers.

The labor movement started it in the late 19th century, and it was declared a federal holiday in 1894. For many Americans, Labor Day weekend also marks the end of summer, and it is marked by celebrations, parades, and sporting activities.

But why do we commemorate this important event?

The annual celebration of workers’ accomplishments known as Labor Day got its start over one of the most depressing periods in American labor history.

The typical American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, in order to make a meager livelihood. Children as young as 5 or 6 worked in mills, factories, and mines across the nation despite limitations in certain states, earning only a small portion of what their adult colleagues did.

Labor unions, which had initially arisen in the late 18th century, became more powerful and vocal as industrial gradually replaced agriculture as the source of employment in America. To protest terrible working conditions and force employers to renegotiate hours and pay, they started organizing strikes and protests.

Workingmen’s Holiday

Other industrial hubs around the nation adopted the concept of a “workingmen’s holiday,” observed on the first Monday in September, and other states approved legislation honoring it.

Until a landmark moment in American labor history thrust workers’ rights squarely into the public’s perspective 12 years later, Congress would not officially recognize the holiday. Employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike on May 11, 1894, to protest pay reductions and the ousting of union reps.

On June 26, the American Railroad Union, headed by Eugene V. Debs, demanded a nationwide boycott of all Pullman railcars, which severely disrupted rail travel. In an effort to end the Pullman strike, the federal government sent troops to Chicago, sparking rioting that claimed the lives of more than a dozen workers.

The originator of Labor Day

Following this severe turmoil, Congress approved a law declaring Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories in an effort to mend fences with American workers. President Grover Cleveland ratified it on June 28, 1894. The actual creator of Labor Day has not been uncovered more than a century later.

Some claim that the holiday was first proposed by Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, while others attribute the idea to Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor.

Truck-N-Trailer joins the Commemoration of Labor Day

There are still parades, picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, and other public events held on Labor Day in cities and towns all around the United States. It signifies the conclusion of summer and the beginning of back-to-school season for many Americans, particularly for kids and young adults. In honoring this historic occasion, the Truck-Trailer joins the nation as a whole.