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What is Labor Day celebrated for?

By Catalogs Editorial Staff

Labor Day is celebrated for the work of the American labor force

Labor Day is celebrated for the work of the American labor force

The first Monday in September is Labor Day. We observe this day to pay tribute to the workers in the United States who have made this country remarkable and one-of-a kind. The observation was created by the labor movement. On this date, citizens pay homage to the economic and social accomplishments Americans have achieved.

There is some dispute over who actually invented it. Some believe it was established by Peter J. McGuire, the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor and a member of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners.

Others believe Matthew Maguire, who worked as a machinist, founded this holiday, proposing it in 1882. The first celebration took place on a Tuesday (September 5, 1882) in NYC. The “Monday” observation started two years later. The first state to officially designate the first Monday in September as a holiday was the state of Oregon in 1887. It became a federal observation seven years later.


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In the late 1700s, the first trade union in American cropped up. It was the Federal Society of Journeymen Cordwainers (shoemakers.) The unions were created to ensure that workers got fair wages for their work. The purpose of unions was to demand a shorter work schedule, and defend their work against cheap and diluted toil. The goal was to have a just society, honest work and social equality In the 19th century, it was primarily skilled workers that were involved in trade unionism.

Child labor was another critical issue that had to be addressed by leaders in the workforce.

As difficult as it may be to grasp, very young children were put to work in factories through necessity and because the owners knew they were not apt to strike, were easy to manage and worked cheaper than adults. Children worked in mines, in agriculture, textiles, as newsboys, peddlers, bootblacks and elsewhere.


In 1832, the New England unions spoke up and condemned children working noting that it was dangerous and unhealthy for children to work under these conditions and for such long hours. The first state child labor law was enacted in 1836 in Massachusetts. It was mandated that children that were under the age of 15 and who worked in factories must also attend school three months a year. In 1842, a child?s work day was limited to 10 hours, if you can believe that.

Finally, in 1938, the federal regulation of child labor was achieved via the Fair Labor Standards Acts. The employment of children and the hours they were allowed to work was henceforth under the control of the federal government.

America was the destination for many immigrants, who worked for a mere pittance often in brutal conditions. This situation became clearly evident when the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory caught fire on March 25, 1911. Leaders of the movement and American workers were prompted in the aftermath to pull together and do something about the situation.

All good intentions aside, the creation of this observation was not the panacea for the horrid working conditions that many men and women were exposed to and endured 150 years ago but it was a start.

America?s work  force has traditionally been one to be reckoned with. It is unparalleled when it comes to production and has achieved the highest standard or living that the world has ever had. That is why the first Monday in September is set aside to honor the American worker.

Labor Day is a federal observation, which means banks, the post office and government agencies, as well as schools, are closed.

This is a time for partying or just relaxing. Jump in the pool and cool off. Before long, you will be closing your pool for winter. Hang out on your patio and sip a cold one. This used to be the last summer holiday before school started so, in essence, it is emblematic of the end of summer.

In the past, school started immediately after Labor Day and dismissed for the summer in early-mid June. Now, schools start in mid-August and the school year ends right about Memorial Day.

Sports are linked with this occasion. It is considered the beginning of college football and the NFL. The first game played by the NFL is usually on the Thursday after the first Monday in September.

Some consumers associate this observation with sales on merchandise. They go to the store in droves to get a good bargain.


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