Labor Day, this year being celebrated on Monday September 7, 2015, is officially a celebration of the American labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of the workers who made America the greatest industrial society in history. This holiday provides a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers,
Congress declared Labor Day as a federal holiday in 1894 even though 30 states already celebrated the holiday. Congress enacted, and President Grover Cleveland signed into law, the holiday legislation to help end the Pullman (railroad car) Company labor strike in which 30 American Railway Union members died at the hands of the US Marshals while attempting to enforce a federal court injunction against the union.
But to many people, Labor Day has nothing to do with ‘labor’ other than as a ‘day off work from it’ since they actually consider the holiday as the ‘the unofficial end of summer’. Years ago most public schools didn’t start until after the Labor Day holiday because in many places it was ‘too hot’ for school, because most schools didn’t have “air conditioning’. As school districts built new schools and re-constructed others, air conditioning became the norm, rather than the exception, and so school semesters began prior to the holiday. Now Labor Day is the first ‘holiday’ of the new school year for many school districts.
So as you celebrate this holiday, wrapping up that last summer fling (boating at the lake, or camping in the forest, or taking a drive across the state or nation to see relatives), let us remember the American ‘working man and woman’ who have contributed so much, including building those lakes, preserving those forests, and constructing those roadways, along with every other aspect of work to build the society and nation we all know and love.
PS – and have a ‘Great and safe, Labor Day….’
(Source Data: Statistical and historical information courtesy of the U.S. Department of Labor.)