Remembering Labor Day
by Jo Anne Disney
September 3, 2014 • 168 views
I hope you all had a safe and restful Labor Day. What do you know about Labor Day? Each year on the first Monday of September we honor those who work by giving them the day off. This holiday is called Labor Day. But there is much more to remember about this holiday than just getting the day off.
History tells us that the first Labor Day was observed on September 5, 1882 mainly due to the efforts of Peter J. McGuire, founder of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America, an important labor union. He was also a member of the Knights of labor. Who was Peter J. McGuire? According to John Shepler, McGuire started his work life at the age of 11 to support his mother and 6 sisters while his father fought in the Civil War. During that time he marched in the streets with 100,000 of his fellow workers demanding better working conditions. It seems that “in the 1880’s and 1890’s relations between workers and managers were often bitter.” Why? They were angry because “workers toiled 12 to 14 hours a day, seven days a week, in dirty, unsafe buildings. Many children had to go to work at the age of 11 or 12.”
Labor unions in this country remain very important because, since their inception, they have helped millions of workers gain not only fair wages, but safe and satisfactory working conditions. Remember the term “sweat shops?” In addition, McGuire was the man who suggested to the “Central Labor Union of New York City” that there should be a day honoring America’s workforce. So there was a huge Labor Day Parade and celebration in New York. Records indicate that over 10,000 workers participated.
“The General Assembly of the Knights of Labor passed a resolution in 1884 declaring the first Monday in September Labor Day and asking it to be an annual celebration. In 1887, Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day a state holiday. Thirty states observed Labor Day in 1893. And on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill passed by Congress that made Labor Day a legal holiday in the District of Columbia.”
Today all of our states celebrate Labor Day. Even though the meaning has changed over the years, we should never forget all of those workers who labored for each and every one of us. Their courage and sacrifice paved the way. We owe them a debt of thanks. Labor Day marks the end of summer. And, with it comes the old custom about not wearing white after Labor Day. However, today’s fashion seems to dictate a “wear whatever you want attitude.” You decide.