Labor Day is celebrated in the U. S. on the first Monday in September. The day itself is a celebration of the labor movement in America and the many achievements that we have produced over the history of the United States. In essence, Labor Day is a national tribute to workers who have made great contributions to the economic well-being of the country.
In addition to the U. S., Canada also recognizes their Labor Day on the first Monday in September as well. However, around the world most recognitions of the labor movement occur on May 1st or May Day which is today known as International Workers’ Day.
The History of Labor Day
The first actual proposal of Labor Day occurred in 1882 with Matthew Maguire, the Secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York. However, some argue that the first was Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor who in May, 1882 witnessed the annual labor celebration in Canada and made the proposal.
The first real promotion of having a day to celebrate labor was initiated by the Knights of Labor and the Central Labor Union who created the first official parade on May 1st, 1886. At the time, President Grover Cleveland was more than happy to have an official recognition of the day, but feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1st might become an opportunity to recognize the infamous Haymarket Massacre.
The Haymarket Massacre which occurred in Chicago on May 4th, 1886 began as a peaceful march by laborers at Haymarket Square in recognition of an eight-hour workday. Then, an unknown person tossed a dynamite bomb at the police who tried to disperse the meeting. The result was gunfire and great confusion as at least seven police officers and four others died as a result. The massacre is considered quite significant in the creation of May Day celebrations around the world.
However, Grover Cleveland wanted to avoid such associations, so he instead offered a day in September which met with approval from the Knights of Labor and the day was formally recognized in 1887.
But, wait, there’s more. Oregon became the first state to recognize Labor Day as a holiday that was celebrated on February 21st, 1887. The actual official holiday as approved by the U. S. Congress did not take place until 1894 as a result of the Pullman Strike. Again, it was President Grover Cleveland who was now in his second non-consecutive term who, as a result of the strike, designated Labor Day as an official federal holiday to help ease tensions.
Labor Day Today
More than just a day to celebrate the accomplishments of American labor, this day also marks what is known as “Retail Sale Day”, a time when stores across the U. S. offer discounts on their products as shoppers take advantage. Only “Black Friday” which follows Thanksgiving is a larger day in terms of retail sales.
In addition, Labor Day serves as the end of summer vacations and the beginning of the school year for millions of students. Plus, college and NFL teams often use Labor Day as the official beginning of their seasons along with other sporting events held on this day.
Rumor Has It …
… that Labor Day was actually the brainchild of the Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe since she had experienced labor more than any female ought to have.