The purpose of Labor Day

Monday, September 1 is Labor Day. For a lot of people, this holiday means that we get a day off work. Some people get excited about the retail sales that pop up, but others dread it because it marks the beginning of the new school year for them. Each year, this holiday comes and goes, but do we really know what it’s really celebrating?


Labor Day occurs on the first Monday every September. It is a day set aside to honor the working men and women in America. The history of Labor Day began Tuesday, September 5, 1882- the very first labor day. Eventually the holiday was moved to the first Monday in September. This day was chosen because it was halfway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. In 1884 it officially became a national holiday.


More than 120 years later, we are still unsure who exactly proposed the first Labor Day. Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor is thought to have proposed the idea of Labor Day. Matthew Maguire, a machinist, is also believed to be credited with proposing the holiday while he was a secretary of the Central Labor Union.


During the first Labor Days, there were parades, speeches and  festivals for the workers’ family. Today, Labor Day is more for celebrating a day off with the family. The main reason for that is because of the decreasing membership of Labor Unions.


America was experiencing its Industrial Revolution during the first labor day. Men and women would work 12 hours a day, seven days a week to provide for their families. Labor day was a rare day off for these workers. In 2013, there were only 14.5 million members of the Labor Union, which is a significant decrease compared to the 17.7 million members in 1983. The jobs that Labor Day once honored just don’t exist anymore.


So as you celebrate the three day weekend with a family barbeque or shopping spree, keep in mind the work put in by thousands of men and women that gave us to the opportunity to appreciate this holiday.