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A Look Back on Labor Day

In today’s world, we all know Labor Day as a day off from work or school. The question many people don’t know is, what is the true meaning behind Labor Day? Labor Day has an engaging story that is very important for modern American workers.

Today, we celebrate Labor Day with parades, picnics, and many other public events, but this holiday started under very different circumstances. Dating back to the 19th century, the idea of a “workingmen’s holiday” sprung up during the peak of the industrial revolution. The average American worked a 12-hour day/7 days a week in order to make a living.

Many labor unions that started earlier in the century grew popular and began organizing rallies to renegotiate working conditions and pay for employees. These rallies often turned violent, which sometimes led to people getting killed as a result. On September 5th, 1882, 10,000 workers took to the street to march to Union Square in New York City, unintentionally creating the first Labor Day parade in the United States.

By 1894, 23 states recognized Labor Day and on June 28th, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday in September of each year the national holiday we know today. The first proposal for the holiday suggested a street parade to show “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by different activities for workers and their families.

This declaration of the holiday declared what many of us know as “The American Worker” in today’s society. Often, this holiday is recognized as the end of the summer and the start of back-to-school season for many. Although this is often a relaxing day, it is important to remember why it was started and to continue to stand behind fair wages/representation for workers across America.

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