Labor Day - Why and How We Celebrate

The History of Labor Day in America

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When you think of Labor Day, what comes to mind? For many, it's the last long weekend before school starts. It's a weekend with picnics and barbecues, and maybe a parade. For some, it's start of the fall season and anticipation of football. Like many other holidays, American's enjoy the day off, but have lost sight of what it was originally created to celebrate. 

Whether you work in a job or run a home business, Labor Day was created to honor and celebrate the social and economic achievements of American workers.


How Did Labor Day Come About?

There is dispute about who originally thought of the idea of an annual Labor Day observance. According to the Department of Labor, two men are put forward as the originator of the idea. One is Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. The other possible originator was Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who later became the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J.

Labor Day was first celebrated by local municipals and states before becoming a national holiday. The first Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, according to the Department of Labor. It was organized by the New York's Central Labor Union, which was made of of several labor unions coming together to work toward better working conditions.

 The second Labor Day followed a year later, on September 5, 1883.

Labor Day wasn't part of a three-day weekend until 1884, when the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed by the Central Labor Union, who encouraged other cities and states to honor workers as well.

From 1885 to 1894, 32 states passed bills to adopt a day designed to honor workers.

On June 28, 1894, Congress passed the act establishing the first Monday in September as a legal national holiday. 

Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

The original intent of Labor Day was to provide a holiday that would honor the social and economic achievements of American workers. Essentially, it was intended to be an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

During the industrial revolution in particular, you can see how American workers built a strong nation with infrastructures, such as railways, dams, roads and more. While rich and powerful men, such as Andrew Carnegie often get the credit, it was their workers who turned these great men's visions into reality. 

How We Celebrate Labor Day Now

While many still turn out to hear Labor Day speeches and attend parades, the purpose of the holiday has fallen way, and instead is usually viewed as the last hurrah of summer.

Still, that's not necessarily a bad thing. In a nation of people who work more hours and takes less vacation than other western nations, having a last summer party is greatly needed. Labor Day may not be a day in which people actively celebrate and honor workers, but it does give working people a much needed respite, which is equally important. 

Although Labor Day was originated by labor unions, the need to honor work and career expands beyond unionized industries. As an entrepreneur, you're making a contribution to the world, as well as supporting yourself and your family. That deserves and day of honor. Further, it's important to take time off, whether it's a weekend getaway or a vacation. You might even look up what sorts of Labor Day events are going on in your city. Many areas continue to hold parades and other events, such as music festivals. 

What's important is that even as a home-based entrepreneur, in which everything rides on you, it's important to take time off. Without work-life balance, you'll burnout making running your home business more difficult than it should be. 


Updated May 2016 Leslie Truex

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