What Labor Day Means for the American Worker

Jan 14, 2021 | Labor and Employment

Labor Day is a tribute to the social and economic achievements of het American workers. This federal holiday pays a tribute to the achievements of American workers. Initiated by the labor movement, the holiday first recognized in 1885 by states then later official the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in 1882. And since 1894 after President Grover Cleveland signed it into law, the first Monday of every September has been deemed a national holiday.

What is Labor Day?

The American labor force changed the standard of living and created unprecedented production accomplishments. The day honors the strength, dedication, and spirit of the American workforce and provides for a break full of celebration and amusement for workers and their families. Observing Labor Day has turned into community festivals with parades and other activities.

The Origin of Labor Day

In the late 1800s, during the Industrial Revolution, the average American worked 12-hours a day, seven days week to just to make a basic living. Laborers worked in mills, factories, mines, and industrial construction. The conditions were often unsafe and lacked sufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities, and breaks.

Because of the poor working conditions, labor unions started to organize and speak up on behalf of workers. Founders of the movement sought a unified union of workers and a reduction in working hours. Strikes and rallies became more common to protest the poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours, payment, and treatment.

In some cases, these protests turned violent, like the Haymarket Riot and the Pullman Strike. It was actually the Pullman Strike at the Pullman Palace Car Company that was a watershed moment in American labor history because it was attention grabbing across the nation. Federal officials were dispatched to Chicago to force workers back into the steel mill. Instead, the boycott became a riot resulting in a handful of deaths.

Why We Celebrate

We celebrate Labor Day every year to remember the efforts of generations of workers who fought to secure better working conditions, fair pay, and safer conditions. It took years of organizing, unionizing, and marching to receive these rights. For some, the efforts were at the cost of livelihood and sometimes life. Today, we all benefit from the movement and have collective bargaining, a 40-hour workweek, and workplace protections.

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