Why We Celebrate Labor Day
by Joanne Troppello
Do you know why we celebrate Labor Day? It is a day to recognize how the American worker contributes to the prosperity, strength, and economic well-being of our country. This national tribute happens on the first Monday in September.
Path to Legislation
The legislation to recognize Labor Day first passed in 1885 and 1886 through municipal ordinances. This initial local government recognition sparked a movement to secure state legislation. New York was the first state to introduce a Labor Day Legislation bill. However, they were not the first state to pass this legislation. That honor is held by Oregon who passed the legislation on February 21, 1887.
New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, and Colorado were the next four states to pass this legislation during 1887. Pennsylvania, Nebraska, and Connecticut passed legislation to honor Labor Day by the end of the decade. Twenty-three more states enacted legislation by 1894. Congress passed legislation to make this a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories on June 28, 1894.
Founder of Labor Day
There is a difference of opinion regarding the facts of who was the first person to propose the observance of a day to honor the American worker. Some historical records claim that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners—as well as the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor—first proposed the idea to honor workers. He wanted to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”
Other historians have stated that a machinist named Matthew Maguire founded this holiday. He was the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists located in Paterson, N.J. It is said that he proposed the creation of this holiday in 1882 when he served as the secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. It is a fact that the Central Labor Union did adopt a proposal to create Labor Day and then selected a committee to formulate a demonstration and picnic.
The First Observance of Labor Day
On Tuesday, September 5, 1882, the first Labor Day was celebrated in New York City as the Central Labor Union had planned for. This union observed their second Labor Day the following year on Wednesday, September 5, 1883—and then subsequently after official legislation on the first Monday each September.
The Nation Celebrates Labor Day
The first proposal for the holiday outlined that a street parade should take place so that the public could honor “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” in the various communities. After the parade, the workers and their families participated in a festival for further recreation and amusement. In subsequent years, prominent men and women gave speeches. However, they emphasized the civic and economic importance of the day.
In their 1909 convention, the American Federation of Labor made a resolution to adopt a Labor Sunday where the educational and spiritual facets of the labor movement could be emphasized.
In recent years, the observance of Labor Day has seen a variety of changes. Due to the significant increase in industrial centers, hosting massive parades was not feasible. With these changes, the observance of the holiday took on a less ostentatious demonstration.
It is important that as a nation, we continue to honor the American worker for continuing to work hard each day and contribute to the economic and social development of our country. Whether you’re retired or currently working, do something nice for yourself today. Let’s honor each other as vital parts of the American workforce and continue to strive to develop the strength and freedom of our nation.
About the Author
Joanne Troppello is a published author of 3 inspirational fiction novels and the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Pandora's Box Gazette.
She has experience as a freelance writer in topics such as marketing, retail marketing, health and wellness, internet and media, travel and lifestyle, website content, app recommendations, and content for blogs.
Visit her Amazon Author Page for more information regarding her books.