The History of Labor Day

Culture, Holidays August 31, 2016

Have you ever wondered why we always get the first Monday of September off?

Yes, people often note this particular holiday as the end of summer and the beginning of school. However, Labor Day has a much more significant meaning. Basically, Labor Day is a time to pay tribute to the achievements of American workers.

In the height of the Industrial Revolution (18th – 19th century), the average American worked 12-hour days for seven days a week, making the bare minimum to survive. Despite certain restrictions in some states, children as young as five or six worked in mills, factories, and mines, making a significant amount less than their adult counterparts. People of all ages, especially poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities, and breaks.

However, as the manufacturing of agriculture grew, labor unions became more prominent and vocal. Workers within the unions began organizing strikes and rallies to protest the poor working conditions, long hours, and low pay. Although most of these rallies often became violent, some resulted in an incredibly impactful march.

On September 5th, 1882, an estimated 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City. This became known as the first Labor Day parade in US History. It would take another 12 years for the first Monday of September to be legalized as a national holiday — the holiday we presently refer to as Labor Day.

So enjoy your day off, and be sure to appreciate those around you who work so hard to build meaningful lives for themselves and their families.

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