Labor Day History How The Holiday Began


 Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the official closing of the summer season.  While you are enjoying the long weekend, pause to ponder the original significance of Labor Day and how it has changed through the decades. 

In the late 19th century terrible working conditions were the norm in America’s industrial cities. The average factory worker put in twelve hour days, seven days a week just to meet basic family expenses. And young children were not exempt from the grueling routine. Labor groups, craft guilds, and trade groups were formed for the goal of improving conditions, raising wages, and protecting children. In that time Labor Day was a time of fiery rhetoric and parades. 


History is a little murky regarding who specifically responsible for the beginning of the tradition. However, the first proposal to create an official holiday came from the Central Labor Union in New York. On September 5, 1882, more than 10,000 workers assembled to participate in America’s first Labor Day parade. The parade was followed by a picnic, speeches, and a concert. 

Three years later, 1885, Central Labor selected the first Monday in September for its celebration. The group encourages others across the nation to do the same in their city. The movement grew. Over the next two decades states and cities began of officially adopt the holiday.  Finally, in 1894 Congress declared that the first Monday in September would be Labor Day. 

Labor Day is now more associated with the beginning of football season, leisure time, a final trip to the beach or pool and the end of children’s summer vacation than with worker conditions. Change is continual, many states will be two or three weeks into their school year when Labor Day arrives this year and fashion mavens have even declared that the “no white clothing or shoes to be worn after Labor Day” rule is no longer sacrosanct. 

Labor Day Facts


154.4 million – The number of people 16 and older in the nations labor force in May 2010.

7.6 million – Number of workers who hold down more than one job.

284,000 - Number of moonlighters who work full time at 2 jobs.  When do they sleep?

10.1 million - Number of self-employed workers.

5.9 million - Number of people who work at home

$47,127 and $36,278 - The 2009 annual median earnings for male and female full time year round workers respectively. 

17.7 million - Number of commuters who leave for work between midnight and 5:59 am. They represent 13 percent of all commuters. 

76% - Percentage of workers who drive alone to work; another 11 percent carpool and 5 percent take public transportation.

3.5 million - Number of workers whose commute to work of 90 or more minutes each day. 

Source: US Census Bureau 2011


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