Growing up I never fully understood Labor Day. It was just an extra day off of school that all of us looked forward to. Let’s face it, as children we celebrated one less day of busy work that the teachers handed us. As a kid I remember doing different class exercises on Abe Lincoln and George Washington on Presidents day, and also doing countless exercises and historical activities surrounding Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Heck we even did Arbor Day activities. How come we were never taught anything about Labor Day and what it was about? I guess it was put on students as “common” sense.
Doing my own research I learned that Labor Day first started on September 5, 1882 in Boston. It was put on by the Central Labor Union of New York. During the late 1800’s, the industrial revolution, working conditions were far from tolerable. Children as young as 5 or 6 worked in the mills and earned less than half of what adults would make. Adults would work 12 or more hours a day to attempt to make a living for their families. Workers made low pay in extremely poor working conditions and also had very few breaks if any. “Unions began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.” On September 5th, ten thousand workers took unpaid time off to march from city hall to Union Square in New York City. President Grover Cleveland made it a top political priority for him and his team, and it became a federal holiday in 1894.
Today it is celebrated for the social and economic achievements of American Workers. Did you know that?