Labor Day honors the contributions and achievements of American workers and is traditionally celebrated on the first Monday in September. Labor Day weekend also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans and is celebrated with parties, street parades and sporting events.
Clearly, labor is related to work in some ways. More specifically, it dates back to the late 1800s, and it's not as boring as it sounds. Go back in time to that era and you'll find that poor working conditions spawned the labor movement's struggle for improvement. Likewise, it was one particularly large strike that led Congress to declare the first Monday in September an official holiday as we know it today.
In the late 1800s, at the height of the American Industrial Revolution, the average American worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, to make ends meet. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toil in factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of the wages of their adult peers.
As manufacturing increasingly replaced agriculture as the source of American employment, labor unions, first emerged in the late 18th century, became more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate working hours and wages.
On September 5, 1882, some 10,000 New York union members, forgoing a day's wages, marched from City Hall to Union Square together. It was the first parade supporting workers in American history.
The idea of celebrating a "worker's holiday" on the first Monday in September has caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states have passed legislation acknowledging it. Congress didn't legalize the holiday until 12 years later, when a watershed moment in American labor history brought workers' rights straight into the public eye.
On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Automobile Company in Chicago went on strike to protest pay cuts and the firing of union representatives. On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars ,paralyzing rail traffic across the country. To stop the Pullman strike, the federal government sent troops to Chicago, sparking a wave of unrest that killed more than a dozen workers.
Today, the post-industrial economy presents a new set of challenges for working people. But while the details of schedules, working conditions and skill requirements may vary, the fundamental question remains: Can we design a world of work where workers have the opportunity to live and live decently? Labour Day provides an opportunity to reflect on how we can build a world of work that can once again be the foundation of a stable, vibrant and broadly prosperous society.
Labor Day is also the last three-day weekend of summer, the perfect time to squeeze in some last-minute, warm-weather fun.
If you're planning to spend the holidays at home, you can plan a barbecue and cook up some of the best barbecue recipes and easy summer desserts, and play a range of outdoor games for all ages. Feeling fancy? Anyone can watch the parade, but why not break the bike and organize your own Labor Day parade? You can also keep it simple by reading a good book or a movie marathon. If you don't want to linger here, take a road trip out of town and explore a charming new place or National Park you've never seen before. Really, the possibilities are endless - that's why we've done all the work and come up with so many family-friendly ideas to have a great day.