As you probably already know, Monday will the unofficial end to summer and the beginning of autumn. Many families will spend Labor Day taking part in the same activities they did on Memorial Day: attend parties, cookouts and other outdoor events. You may celebrate Labor Day every year, but do you know how the holiday actually began?
The history goes back all the way to the late 1800s right after the Industrial Revolution. Men were so thrilled to have steady employment that they compromised for long hours and small wages. As a result, many labor unions were formed. After attending a union strike in Canada, union leader Peter J. McGuire decided it was time to bring the protest to the United States.
On September 5, 1882, New York City workers took a day without pay to picket for fair working conditions and 8-hour workdays. It became an annual tradition. Two years later, the labor union encouraged other workers across the county to march as well. In 1887, Oregon was the first state to officially recognize the working man’s holiday and other states soon followed.
It wasn’t until 1894 that Labor Day became a national holiday after a political disaster. Railway workers in Pullman, Illinois, were on strike, protesting higher wages. President Grover Cleveland was being pressured to put the strike to an end. He then deployed 12,000 troops and violence began. Two strikers were killed.
The disaster made national headlines and upset laborers all over the country. To make amends with the workers, congress passed the bill to make Labor Day a national holiday.
It is interesting to think how different life would be had our forefathers decided not to protest for fair working conditions. Would we be still working 12-hour days for minimum pay? It’s impossible to say, but I think we can all be glad that they stood up for their rights.
The Lions Pride office will be closed on Monday, September 1. Happy Labor Day!