How Did Labor Day Get Its Start?

Uncertain Origins

As unions and labor movements increased in the late 1800s there was interest in setting aside a day for recognizing laborers and their contributions to our country. There are at least two stories of how the holiday got its start.

Is This It?

Some say Labor Day has its roots with the General Assembly of the Knights of Labor. At a meeting in New York City in September of 1882 a parade was held on the 5th under the banner of the New York's Central Labor Union (CLU). Following a show of support from the public, Matthew Maguire, Secretary of the CLU, suggested a national day of the celebration of labor be held on the first Monday of each September.

Or How About This?

Others say the holiday was started by Peter J. McGuire, Vice President of the American Federation of Labor (AFL). According to his own account, he proposed the holiday on May 8, 1882 when he requested the recently formed CLU in New York City set aside a day for as a "general holiday for the laboring classes." He suggested that it be held on the first Monday in September, and that a parade be held as a demonstration of organized labor's solidarity and strength. He recommended that the parade be followed by a picnic allowing local unions to sell tickets as a fundraiser.

Fact: Legal Recognition

Oregon was the first state to recognize Labor Day as a public holiday in 1887. In 1894 when Labor Day became an official federal holiday 30 states were already officially celebrating Labor Day.

The End Of Summer

In addition to being the unofficial end of summer, Labor Day is also a time of beginnings. Many school districts begin the new year, NCAA football teams usually play their first games, and many retailers promote special sales making Labor Day second only to Black Friday in terms of sales.

Enjoy your holiday, and be safe! Remember, it's back to work on Tuesday!


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