Labor Day – A Truly American Holiday
To most people today, Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer – one last celebration, often characterized by street parades, parties, and back yard barbecues. It is a uniquely American celebration, made a Federal holiday in 1894 to pay tribute to the contributions American workers have made to our society. But the history of this holiday should also be remembered.
Labor Day’s origin dates back to the late 1800s, during the height of the Industrial Revolution, a time when manufacturing inexorably supplanted agriculture as the mainstay of American employment. But it was also a time when working 12-hour days for 7 days a week to pay for life’s necessities was common, and children as young as 5 or 6 years old often toiled in factories and mills across the country. Poor working conditions caused workers to rally and organize into labor unions, which grew more and more prominent and vocal, organizing strikes and protests demanding better working conditions and pay. Indeed, in September of 1882, about 10,000 workers in NYC took unpaid time off to march on City Hall demanding better working conditions, staging what’s now viewed as the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. The idea caught on in many industrial centers across the country, and gradually evolved into the Labor Day we recognize today – a peaceful celebration of the contributions American workers have made to the economy and working culture of the United States.
As we celebrate the end of summer today, let us remember the tremendous contributions American workers have, over the years, made to our America – contributions which continue today by those who labor daily at their chosen career, whatever it may be. For without the American worker, our society could not exist.
The AMAC Foundation extends its gratitude to American workers everywhere. Please stay safe, in whatever way you choose to celebrate.