Quinn Pedrick

History of Labor Day

September 15, 2020

Labor Day is a national, annual holiday that happens every first Monday of September in which Americans celebrate workers and their achievements by giving them an extra day to their weekend that was well-earned back in the late 1800s.

According to History.com, Labor Day was made an official holiday in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland, but its actual founder(s) is an undetermined subject over a century later. Even so, it is suspected that Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew Maguire, secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the idea for the holiday.

“In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterpart’s wages,” History.com Editors said.

Americans of all ages, races, and genders spent every day laboring away just to have dinner on the table every night if they were lucky enough to. The poor and recent immigrants especially were subjected to extremely dangerous work environments without access to fresh air, sanitary facilities, sanitation of any sort, or breaks.

As work increased in the late 19th century, according to History.com, employees took to the streets to protest and organized strikes to try to compel their employers to renegotiate hours and pay that was well-deserved. One of the most revolutionary events that occurred in the movement was the Haymarket Riot of 1886, where several policemen and workers were killed in Chicago.

The event that started a longstood tradition was the march that occured on September 5, 1882 where 10,000 workers took unpaid time to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, being the first Labor Day parade in history, according to History.com.

History.com adds that the event that led to the signing of the official document making Labor Day a holiday was started by the American Railroad Union in a nation-wide strike ceasing travel. President Cleveland sent 12,000 troops to put an end to the ruckus, which led to over a dozen workers dead.

Labor Day was celebrated September 7th in 2020 as it was the first Monday in September, but Labor Day is more than a day off from school or work to play video games. It is a day to remember the people who fought and died for all of the rights we have as American workers.

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