The History of Labor Day

For many of us, Labor Day is the unofficial close out of summer.  It signals back to school for many students and teachers, and is the sunset of lazy summer afternoons enjoying the pool.  I was curious about the history of the day, so I did some research to learn more.

Labor Day was the creation of the labor movement in honor of the achievements of American workers in the areas of economic and social growth.  It is a yearly salute to their efforts in creating a strong and prosperous country.

Labor Day was enacted into law on June 28, 1894, making the first Monday in September a federal holiday, however the founder credited for its creation is less clear.  Some believe Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, first suggested the day.  Others believe it was Matthew McGuire, a machinist, who first proposed the idea.  The controversy continues to this day, but whichever person you credited for the holiday, Labor Day has become synonymous with American Flags, parades, and hotdogs on the grill.

Original celebrations were designed to showcase the workers and their efforts, followed by activities for the enjoyment of workers and their families.  It was a day to reflect and relax from the hard work of building a country.  The labor force of the United States in the 1800’s and beyond added to the standard of living and brought about the greatest production of goods and services the world had ever seen.  It only makes sense to take a day to honor their contributions of the past and present.

Today, American Workers often work more hours and take less vacation than many other nations.  4AM has become the new power hour, and a sense of pride comes for many from discussing the long hours and over time put in at the shop.  It’s an epidemic with serious consequences including impacts on workers’ health, on productivity, absenteeism, and attrition.  More than 50% of American Workers report working more than 40 hours a week, often trading sleep for work time, and the number of hours worked continues to creep up.

As you enter into this final holiday weekend of summer, breathe, relax, and take a break.  Enjoy the fruits of your labor rather than increasing your labor.  After all, what good does all the laboring do if we don’t ever enjoy the outcome?

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