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A Brief History of Labor Day

Aug 30, 2019

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The industrial revolution in the 19th century changed the way people worked. To ensure they would have steady employment the labor force worked long hours in harsh conditions. In 1882 the idea of a “Labor Day” became public. In September of that year, the first “Labor Day” Parade was formed. Nearly 20,000 workers in New York City decided to forgo the days pay and marched on Union Square to rally around an 8-hour workday.

The New York march inspired workers across the United States and within the next 5 years, Oregon, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, and Colorado made Labor Day a State Holiday.

Labor Day took a stark turn on May 4, 1886. The Chicago union workers were holding a rally in Haymarker Square when a bomb exploded leading to violence that killed seven police officers and four others. Many countries commemorate May 1st as “Workers Day” in honor of this incident.

After violence continued related to a strike with the Pullman Railroad Company, President Grover Cleveland led lawmakers in creating a federal holiday to celebrate workers, but not May 1st as other countries did. September 1st was chosen for the United States Labor day as a bridge holiday for Americans between Independence Day and Thanksgiving. President Cleveland signed the act into law into June 28, 1984.