Why We Celebrate Labor Day

Why We Celebrate Labor Day

I don’t know if I’m like every one else or not, but I seriously look forward to the Labor day week end as another American Tradition and a reason for celebration…this time for the end of summer and beginning of back to school.  Of course I knew there was more to it…something to do with labor of course…but was never exactly sure what it was originally.  So, I did a little research and this is what I came up with.   

Labor Day is an annual celebration of workers and their achievements.  It originated during one of American labor history’s most dismal chapters. In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.  Labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent as our agricultural society turned industrial. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.

The first Labor Day parade occurred Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. The workers’ unions chose the first Monday in September because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. The idea spread across the country, and some states designated Labor Day as a holiday before the federal holiday was created in 1894. The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” followed by a festival for the workers and their families. This became the pattern for Labor Day celebrations.  Later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. Traditionally, (for people like me) Labor Day is celebrated by most Americans as the symbolic end of the summer. The holiday is often regarded as a day of rest and parties and often extends to a three or four day celebration.  People go camping or hiking, spending time in nature and enjoying good food and the company of good people. In the spirit of living a Slow Life and being aware, I heartedly endorse taking the day off and enjoying friends and family and celebrating our labor force…and the voice we have to effect change.  How will you spend labor day?




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