In the U.S., Labor Day is considered the end of the summer. But what is Labor Day?
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 constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. – U.S. Department of Labor
The first Labor Day was held in New York in 1882. I very much enjoyed this account of the first Labor Day celebration. The parade marshal was trying to start the parade, but the musicians that showed up had no music. The parade nearly got cancelled, but then 200 musicians from New Jersey showed up ready to play! I feel like there should be a movie with that scene in it. They saved the parade!
At noon, the marchers arrived at Reservoir Park, the termination point of the parade. While some returned to work, most continued on to the post-parade party at Wendel’s Elm Park at 92nd Street and Ninth Avenue; even some unions that had not participated in the parade showed up to join in the post-parade festivities that included speeches, a picnic, an abundance of cigars and, “Lager beer kegs… mounted in every conceivable place.”
Sounds like a good party to me.
A point to remember was that on the first Labor Day, this wasn’t a holiday. People took off work and lost wages to participate. The idea of Labor Day as an actual holiday started to pick up steam though, as various states made it a state holiday. Finally, in 1894, Labor Day was named a Federal Holiday.
It’s interesting to think about what those workers were dealing with in the 1800′s. Labor unions were hugely important. It’s easy to think that today, we no longer have those problems. Work environments are much safer, there are child labor laws, etc. But there are still a number of issues facing the American worker. Overtime is still an issue in a number of places, and clearly, the minimum wage is something being debated by many people. And many, many other issues.
But today, we celebrate the American worker. It’s a day to relax and spend time with family and reward yourself for all the hard work you’ve done this year. You’re worth it.