The Meaning of Labor Day
For most of us, Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer. It’s the last hoorah for summertime fun at the lake and the final holiday weekend until Thanksgiving. While most of us look forward to this three-day weekend, Labor Day is actually a holiday with deep historical significance. As a leader in the Staffing and Recruiting industry, we want to take a moment to reflect on the importance of this holiday.
What is Labor Day?
Labor Day is the celebration of the American labor movement; it honors the great contributions and achievements of the American worker. The U.S. celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday each September. This year’s celebration (September 2, 2019) is the 125th anniversary of this federal holiday! But how did it become such a significant milestone for American workers and our nation’s history?
The founder of Labor Day is actually somewhat unclear. Peter J. McGuire, the co-founder of the American Federation of Labor and General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, is often recognized as the originator of the holiday. According to McGuire himself, on May 8, 1882, he proposed to the young Central Labor Union in New York City that there should be a “general holiday for the laboring classes.” Moreover, he supposedly suggested the first Monday in September to be set aside to honor the American Laborer with a street parade as a public demonstration followed by a picnic for local unions to use as a fundraiser.
However, recent research illustrates that Matthew Maguire, a machinist and later the Secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, NJ, proposed the holiday in 1882. While serving as the Secretary of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York, he proposed this special day to become a holiday to the CLU. Maguire is now being credited as the brainchild of Labor Day proposing the holiday to be celebrated on the first Monday of each September after the first successful celebration on Tuesday, September 5, 1882.
Becoming a Federal Holiday
Over the years, more and more states began to celebrate the great American workers. The introduction of the first state bill was in New York state; however, Oregon was the first state to pass the holiday as state law on February 21, 1887. By 1894, 12 years after the first celebration, 23 states adopted the holiday. Then, on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday in September of each year a national holiday.
Regardless of who founded the holiday, Labor Day has a profound historical significance. At the end of the day, this holiday is to celebrate you, the American worker. Thus, by working together and putting our differences aside, we have overcome huge milestones throughout our country’s relatively short history. We’ve made our country a better, healthier place and rallied together to improve working conditions, fight for fair pay, and to improve our livelihoods along the way.
A big thanks to you
To summarize, President Theodore Roosevelt summed up the spirit of the American worker well:
“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move onto better things.”
At Johnson Service Group, we have the opportunity to work with thousands of wonderful, hardworking people across the country. Thank you for all your hard work and the contributions you make to our country. It’s an honor to work with you all and help keep the true spirit of this important holiday going strong. Happy Labor Day!