Even though the Fall is still a couple of weeks away, summer vacation is over and kids usually return to school in September. Labor Day weekend is the last hurrah before things get back to normal.
However, this holiday is about more than the unofficial end of summer.
It Honors Workers
This public holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September honors the workers that created and continue to create our prosperous country. It began as a union movement out of necessity, not relaxation.
First Union March in NYC
The first official US Labor Day began in New York City in 1882. Today, we mark Labor Day with parades, but that year it began with a Central Labor Union and Knights of Labor march of 10,000 workers.
These union workers lost a day’s pay and marched from City Hall to Elm Park, where they met with their families. They picnicked and listened to music and speeches regarding worker reforms.
Workers at that time toiled for 12-hour days, seven days a week. They wanted improved working conditions, but it wasn’t until 1916 that the Adamson Act finally established an eight-hour work day, never mind other considerations.
Workers’ Day Was May 1st
May 1st was originally the traditional time to celebrate Workers’ Day. However, in 1886 a bomb exploded at a union rally in Chicago’s Haymarket Square. Seven police officers and four civilians died.
As a result, the government was more than willing to adopt the first Monday in September as Labor Day instead, especially since it coincided with the New York’s union marches.
Oregon Made It Legal First
Oregon made Labor Day a legal holiday in 1887. Later that year, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York followed suit.
Grover Cleveland Takes It National
President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894 in response to strikes, boycotts, riots, and sabotage.
That year, 4,000 factory employees of the Pullman railway company went on strike due to reduced wages. Thirty people died across the country and uprisings caused around $80 million in damages.
The unrest was so widespread that President Cleveland eventually called in the Army to end the strikes. Just six days later, he hurried legislation through Congress to curb the violence and Labor Day became a national holiday.
Labor Unions Helped Create Better Legislation
Labor unions were and still are a powerful force in the U.S. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported 16.4 million wage and salary workers were still represented by unions in 2018.
Their efforts spearheaded change which eventually led to more than 180 federal laws which now cover about 125 million workers. These include protections for wages and hours, workplace safety and health, worker’s compensation, and more.
It’s a Dangerous Time to Drive
Labor Day weekend is one of the busiest travel weekends and also one of the most dangerous times to be on the road. Last year, the National Safety Council estimated 420 fatalities over the long weekend and this has been the consistent average for years.
Don’t drink and drive, drive defensively, and ensure you have the right auto insurance coverage before you travel. We want you to arrive safely to enjoy your Labor Day celebrations.