Pick Your Community: | Hopkins | Muhlenberg | Daviess | Christian | Henderson | Lakes | McCracken | Webster
Davis Motor Sales banner ad

The Origins of Labor Day

As most Americans know, Labor Day pays tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. However, the first celebration was much more of a rights-based social movement rather than the “relax-at-home BBQ fest with family and friends” commemorations some of us hold today. And there’s nothing wrong with that. Ironically enough, the leisurely approach most of us take on the holiday might not be possible without the efforts of our hard-working and opinionated ancestors. Without their efforts, we might be celebrating the day by merely surviving another 12-hour shift at the local iron factory.

At Labor Day’s core rests the unsightly conditions immigrants and established citizens faced in the US job market during the 1800s. From over-crowding in residential areas, to harsh work environments common during the nineteenth century, the workers of yore were over-worked, underpaid, uncertain of their job security, and generally dissatisfied with their place in society.

However, that all began to change when laborers instigated strikes in the 1870s. For example, in the spring of 1872, an unhappy Irish immigrant named Peter McGuire, as well as 100,000 workers, went on strike and marched through the streets of New York City, demanding a decrease in the long working day—and this was only one example of the action workers were beginning to take.

After nearly a decade of upheaval and several failed attempts at labor unification, the American workforce finally came together for the first unofficial Labor Day celebration/parade on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, and operated in accordance with the plans of the recently formed Central Labor Union. With protest signs that offered maxims like “"LABOR CREATES ALL WEALTH," and "EIGHT HOURS FOR WORK, EIGHT HOURS FOR REST, EIGHT HOURS FOR RECREATION!,” it was clear that the workers wanted more rights as well as appreciation. After the celebration/parade, there were picnics all around the city. Workers and celebrants ate Irish stew, homemade bread and apple pie. At night, fireworks were set off.

The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day celebration just a year later on September 5th, 1883, and from the publicity of the two annual events, the idea of demanding workers’ rights spread from coast to coast.

The first governmental recognition of Labor Day came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

Luke Short
Historical information courtesy of the United States Department of Labor and the Embassy of the United States of America

© Copyright 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story by using one of the social media links below.

Posted on 2/2/14
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16
Started 11/8/2013
Started 11/8/2013
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16
Started 11/8/2013
Started 11/8/2013
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16
Started 11/8/2013
Started 11/8/2013
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16
Started 11/8/2013
Started 11/8/2013

Most Read This Week

October 20, 2014 6774

Uncle Lee's in Greenville is Closing Its Doors…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by www.unclelees.com
October 19, 2014 4560

Kentucky Energy Department Releases Virtual Solar…

in General News For All Sites by Dick Brown
October 18, 2014 3501

Muhlenberg County Celebrates New Farmer’s Market

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
October 21, 2014 3445

UPDATE: Pedestrian Struck by Vehicle on Shamrock…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Officer C.P. Haynie
October 20, 2014 2867

Man Charged for Assaulting Pregnant Wife

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
October 23, 2014 2789

Resident Returns Home to People Using Drugs,…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
October 22, 2014 2770

Hopkins County Grand Jury Indictments

in Hopkins News by Karen McKnight
October 21, 2014 2714

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Oct. 21, 2014

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
October 20, 2014 2505

Hopkins County Sheriff's Arrest Reports Released

in Hopkins News by Sheila Hopper
October 22, 2014 2332

Failure to Signal Ends in Drug Arrest

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department

Stories Trending Today

October 23, 2014 2789

Resident Returns Home to People Using Drugs,…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
October 23, 2014 1948

Man Arrested for Endangering Welfare of Minor

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
October 23, 2014 1801

Muhlenberg District Court Fines Handed Down

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
October 23, 2014 1771

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Oct. 23, 2014

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
October 23, 2014 1711

Hopkins County Health Department Food Scores Thru…

in Hopkins News by Lisa Miller
October 22, 2014 1380

Build, Go and Grow Regional Entrepreneurship…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Patricia Wiles
October 23, 2014 1144

America Should Not Go Greek in the Bathroom

in General News For All Sites by Dr. Glenn Mollette
October 24, 2014 1135

Woman Arrested for Allegedly Reporting Check…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department
October 22, 2014 1083

Come Monster Mash at the Museum This Saturday

in General News For All Sites by National Corvette Museum
October 23, 2014 1065

Vocational Rehabilitation Seeks Public Input Nov.…

in General News For All Sites by Kim Brannock

SurfKY News Group, Inc.
Corporate Office & Studio
1125 Nebo Rd.  •  Madisonville, KY 42431
270.452.2727 (phone)
  •  270.452.2249 (fax)


Contact a member of our staff: www.surfky.com/contact
Copyright © 2014 SurfKY News Group, Inc.  •  Terms of Use  •  Site Map

social fbsocial twsocial yt
social gpsocial flrsocial rss