WHAT IS LABOR DAY ALL ABOUT?
Why is this day different from all others? Why is it special?
Labor Day in the United States is a holiday that is celebrated on the first Monday in September. It is a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of their country.
“The vital force of labor 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 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.”
Labor Day originally was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, who organized the first parade in New York City. After the Haymarket Massacre, which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886, U.S. President Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating Labor Day on May 1 could become an opportunity to commemorate the affair. Thus, in 1887, it was established as an official holiday in September to support the Labor Day that the Knights favored.
The equivalent holiday in Canada, Labour Day, is also celebrated on the first Monday in September. In many other countries (more than 80 worldwide), “Labour Day” is synonymous with, or linked with, International Workers’ Day, which occurs on May 1st. Oregon was the first state to make it a holiday on February 21, 1887. By the time it became a federal holiday in 1894, thirty states officially celebrated Labor Day.
Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. Military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve rush legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday; President Grover Cleveland signed it into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date originally chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation’s trade unions for the past several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers’ Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would be associated with the nascent Communist, Syndicalist and Anarchist movements that, though distinct from one another, had rallied to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in International Workers’ Day. All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.
The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations”, followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the civil significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday proceeding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the Labor movement.
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 medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.
The vital force of labor 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 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.
The holiday often marks the return to school, although school starting times now vary.
Today Labor Day is often regarded simply as a day of rest and, compared to the May 1 Labor Day celebrations in most countries, parades, speeches or political demonstrations are more low-key, although especially in election years, events held by labor organizations often feature political themes and appearances by candidates for office.
To take advantage of large numbers of potential customers free to shop, Labor Day has become an important sale weekend for many retailers in the United States. Some retailers claim it is one of the largest sale dates of the year, second only to the Christmas season’s Black Friday.
Ironically, because of the importance of the sale weekend, some of those who are employed in the retail sector not only work on Labor Day, but work longer hours. More Americans work in the retail industry than any other, with retail employment making up 24% of all jobs in the United States. As of 2012, only 3% of those employed in the retail sector were members of a labor union.
In high society, Labor Day is (or was) considered the last day of the year when it is fashionable to wear white or seersucker.
In U.S. sports, Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons. NCAA teams usually play their first games the weekend of Labor Day, with the NFL traditionally playing their first game the Thursday following Labor Day. The Southern 500 NASCAR auto race was held that day from 1950 to 1983 in Darlington, South Carolina. At the Indianapolis Raceway Park, the National Hot Rod Association holds their finals to the U.S. National drag car race. Labor Day is the middle point between weeks 1 and 2 of the U.S. Tennis Championships that are held in Flushing Meadows, New York.
In the United States, many school districts resume classes around the Labor Day holiday weekend. Most begin the week before, making Labor Day weekend the first three-day weekend of the school calendar, while others return the Tuesday following Labor Day, allowing families one final get away before the school year begins. Many districts across the Midwest are opting to begin school after Labor Day.
When you think about, the kids are headed back to school (in recent years and in many areas, most kids have to return to school before Labor Day, but that’s not how I remember it growing up) the baseball season is coming to a climax and football is about to start. In short, families have come to celebrate Labor Day by going to fairs or parades, having backyard barbecues, going to the beach or on a picnic, and generally doing those things they know will soon be impossible or impractical due to the shortening daylight hours and the ratcheting up of busy schedules.
Like other holidays, if you have a home business and have been nudging your family aside to pursue your dreams, the three-day Labor Day weekend is a chance to reconnect with your loved ones. Maybe you can take a weekend getaway, or maybe you’d prefer to stay closer to home and avoid the traffic and crowds.
Whatever you decide to do, try to take some time out to help get your work and family life back in balance. Three-day weekends don’t come along that often, and we should be thankful that our predecessors and ancestors were determined to make it happen.