History of Labor Day

Casting a glance back on Labor Day history is essentially about commemorating and celebrating the American Labor Movement. It is all about knowing the share that the American laborers had in building up the nation with its richness and its many achievements. The Labor Day, usually held on the first Monday in September, inspires this sense of the togetherness that workers need to feel and share in respecting their own contribution to the history of America. Labor Day is an annual recognition of all those dedicated American workers whose achievements, both socially and economically, deserve to be honored. On every Labor Day, Americans pay their tributes to those workers of strength and perseverance whose selfless efforts have added to the growth and prosperity of the American nation.

Even after a century-long celebration, there is no one consistent theory about the Labor Day history. The prominent amongst these attributes the Labor Day to one Peter J. McGuire. He is the one who is credited with the co-founding of the American Federation of Labor, that upholds the cause of the workers and the glory of labor. Peter J. McGuire was propelled by his own experience as a child laborer working hard to make both ends meet for his family. The need to recognize the Labor Day was first upheld by him, as he marched the streets of New York with numerous other fellow-workers, demanding upgraded facilities and working conditions for laborers. Labor Day is largely believed to have been the fruit of the labors of Peter J. McGuire.

There is another opinion on the Labor Day history which holds that it is Matthew McGuire, a machinist who is the true founder of Labor Day. He was the secretary to the Central Labor Union in New York and later the secretary of the Local 344 of International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey. There are clear records of the Labor Day proposal being adopted by the Central Labor Union. The occasion was marked and observed with a committee decision for a public demonstration and a picnic. This was on September 5, 1882, in New York City with the first anniversary being celebrated the next year. From 1884, other organizations in other cities were inspired and advocated to follow the lead of New York. Workers throughout the nation soon realized the necessity of the Labor Day when the honor and dignity of human labor would be sanctified. From 1885, most of the industrial towns across the country started recognizing Labor Day as a national occasion.

Yet another form of history says that Labor Day was inaugurated in 1882 with a large Knights’ Parade on the streets of New York. There was a larger parade in 1884 on the first Monday in September. It was the Knights who resolved to hold all future parades on the same day, marked as the Labor Day.

The importance of the Labor Day increased by the years. In the years 1885 and 1886 official recognition came in the form of municipal ordinances. The next step was to introduce the state bill in an effort to secure the state legislation. The first law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887, although the bill was first introduced in the New York legislature. Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey were joined by New York in this historical effort to secure the Labor Day. Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania were upholding the cause by the end of the decade. Labor Day was an established holiday by 1894 when President Grover Cleveland signed the law. On June 28, it was legalized in the District of Columbia and other territories. 23 other states had already decided to honor the workers with an official observance of the Labor Day.

The Labor Day history has resonances with another working class observance—the May Day as established by the Socialist Party. However America has always insisted on the individual identity of the Labor Day and its distinction from the Communist beliefs. So honor American labor on Labor Day and celebrate the commendable achievements of the workers with your friends, family, colleagues and beloved.