Next Monday, Americans will celebrate Labor Day for the 130th time since the holiday was first recognized in 1882. The holiday marks the unofficial end of summer, and it’s celebrated by many people with parades, picnics, cookouts and trips to the beach or the lake.
This makes it easy to forget why Labor Day was originally established: “As a national tribute to the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country,” according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s History of Labor Day web page.
History of Labor Day
The first Labor Day was adopted by the Central Labor Union in New York and celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. Two years later, the first Monday of September was selected as the official date for Labor Day, and by 1885, celebration of the “workingmen’s holiday” had spread from New York City to many other industrial centers throughout the country.
Oregon was the first state to provide governmental recognition of Labor Day on February 21, 1887, followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York later that year. By 1894, 23 more states had recognized the holiday, and Labor Day became a legal federal holiday that year.
The first proposal for a Labor Day celebration called for a street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, according to the Department of Labor web page. This was to be followed by a festival, recreation and amusement for workers and their families.
Labor Day speeches by prominent labor leaders were introduced later as the emphasis on the economic and civic significance of the holiday became more pronounced. In 1909, the American Federation of Labor deemed the Sunday preceding Labor Day as Labor Sunday: “Dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.”
Celebrate the Fruits of Your Labor
Whatever you plan to do on Labor Day this year, be sure to take some time to celebrate the fruits of your own personal labor. This is especially important in today’s challenging economy.
Given economic conditions and the stubbornly high unemployment rate, many Americans who are fortunate enough to have good jobs that provide for their needs—both materially and from a career fulfillment perspective—are working extra hard to try to keep their jobs. Therefore, you deserve at least one day each year to step back, take a break and really appreciate the hard work that you’re doing.
Try to enjoy a full three-day weekend this Labor Day by leaving work behind on Friday afternoon and not picking it up again until Tuesday morning. This can be hard to do in today’s always-on, interconnected world, where many employees are expected to be accessible via their computers or mobile devices 24 hours a day, seven days a week. But strive to make this happen if at all possible.
And keep this thought from the Department of Labor’s web page in mind: “The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known. 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.”
Happy Labor Day!
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