A celebration of workers

Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday in September, is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

The US Department of Labor says that Labor Day is a creation of the labor movement. Those who are quick to put down unions choose to forget the working conditions many Americans faced in the 1800s and the early part of the 1900s. There was no such thing as a 40-hour work week or minimum wage. There were no child labor laws and working conditions were sometimes dangerous. It is because of the work of organized labor that governments began to set aside a day to honor workers.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The first governmental recognition of Labor Day came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon in 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Today, most people see Labor Day weekend as a day for a last trip to the lake, a barbecue or some other fun activity. Still, it’s important to remember the importance the Labor movement has had in the history and culture of this nation.