Why we celebrate Labor Day


The first Labor Day parade, New York City, Sept. 5, 1882

Tommy Beggs, Staff Writer

Everyone is excited about the upcoming long weekend. Having a Monday off is a real treat, but why do we have this miniature vacation? The short answer is “Labor Day.” Though we have this holiday to thank for our extended absence from school, what we are celebrating is not common knowledge.

Labor Day is the nationwide celebration of the social and economic advances made and to be made by the American workforce. Labor Day was first recognized in 1885 by several municipal ordinances, though the first statewide recognition of the holiday occurred in Oregon in 1887. Later that year, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York followed suit. Congress made Labor Day an official national holiday in 1894, proclaiming the first Monday of each September to be a federal holiday.

South students have the administration of Chester A. Arthur to thank while enjoying themselves during the upcoming Monday. During this time period, labor movements and workers unions were becoming more prominent because of the need to alleviate such strenuous working conditions. Most American laborers worked 12 hour days, every day, and often in unsafe environments.

The true founder of Labor Day is historically disputed, however where it began is known. The Central Labor Union in the New York and New Jersey area proposed a day to honor the working class. The first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882 with a large parade through the streets of many cities. Furthermore, the Sunday before Labor Day is known as Labor Sunday; and in accordance with the times, used to be dedicated to religious reflection of the working year.

Today, Labor Sunday is hardly recognized and Labor Day parades are scarce. Though the original meaning of Labor Day is largely lost today, maybe you will give a small “thank you” to the workers unions of the late nineteenth century for your day off.