THE WORKING MAN’S
(AND WORKING WOMAN’S) HOLIDAY
Labor Day is observed annually on the first Monday of September, and was made a U.S. federal holiday by Act of Congress in 1894. Meant as a day of tribute to American workers, Labor Day also marks the end of summer, as well as the beginning of the NFL and college football season.
Top Five Facts About Labor Day
Why do most workers get the day off? In the 19th century, the majority of workers (including children) worked 12 hours a day, 7 days a week until the first labor unions began to organize strikes and demonstrations for better wages and safer working conditions. In 1882 in New York City, 10,000 workers left their jobs to march from City Hall to Union Square in the first “Labor Day” parade, and the idea of a “workingman’s holiday” caught on. Until made an official federal holiday by Congress, workers who took Labor Day off had to sacrifice a day’s wages.
Why did Congress make Labor Day a federal holiday? In 1894 in Chicago, Pullman Palace Car company workers had their wages cut, and union representatives fired, and went on strike in protest, supported by a boycott suggested by the American Railroad Union. With the railroads crippled from coast to coast, Congress stepped in to break the strike by sending Army troops to Chicago, sparking riots and unrest. To improve relations between the government and American workers (and many states had already adopted Labor Day) Congress voted an act to make Labor Day an official federal holiday.
Who founded Labor Day? Who proposed celebrating Labor Day remains a mystery, however historians suggest two candidates: the founder of the American Federation of Labor, Peter J. McGuire; or the secretary of the Central Labor Union, Matthew Maguire.
What do people do with their day off? Popular Labor activities include barbeques and picnics, political speeches, concerts, art festivals, water sports, parades, and fireworks. For many families with children, Labor Day usually means the end of summer vacation, and the beginning of the new school year.
What’s the deal about not wearing white after Labor Day? While historians are split on the reason behind this “rule,” and even etiquette experts aren’t sure, these days, wearing white after Labor Day isn’t such a fashion faux pas. The reason may relate to the early 20th century custom of wealthy Americans to wear light, white clothing in summertime, then with summer’s symbolic end on Labor Day, switch to heavier, darker fabrics to deal with the fall weather.
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