Labor Day is a legal holiday on the first Monday in September in the United States. The celebration of Labor Day, in honor of the working class, began in the U.S. in 1882 when the Knights of Labor held a large parade in New York City. In 1884 the group held a parade on the first Monday of September and passed a resolution to hold all future parades on that day and to name the day Labor Day.
"Labor Day is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race or nation" said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor.
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It is a yearly national tribute to the workers who have made the USA the wealthy and secure nation it is today.
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.
Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor workers. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
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 Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, l883.
In l884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday and the Central Labor Union urged other organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in l885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday -- a street parade followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday.
The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and expression. Labor Day addresses (speeches) by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio and television.
The workers have added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership -- the American worker.
True and False Questions
1. Labor Day was first celebrated in 1882.
3. Labor Day is often filled with speeches by prominent people.
4. Labor Day is in honor of the workers of this country.
5. Labor Day is in honor of one special man.
6. Labor Day is always on a Monday.
7. Labor unions started the idea of Labor Day.
8. Picnics are common on Labor Day.
9. Labor Day celebrations have not changed over the years.
10. The American worker has added to this nation's strength, freedom and leadership in the world.