Today is the unofficial last day of summer for most Americans.
For many, school starts tomorrow and today is for barbeques, football and an extra day to sleep in.
But why? Why do we celebrate the labor force by not working? The roots of this holiday are rather dubious.
According to the Department of Labor website, the holiday was started by New York’s Central Labor Union in 1882 to celebrate the “workingmen.” More than 10,000 workers took this unpaid day off to march through the streets of the city from City Hall to Union Square.
Two years later, the official date became the first Monday in September. In 1894, Congress deemed it a federal holiday.
It was meant to celebrate the American worker as the backbone of “the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership,” according to the website.
While many people believe labor unions have gained too much strength nowadays, in the late 1800s during the Industrial Revolution, workers often worked 12-hour days, 7 days a week to earn even the most meager existence, according to History.com. Even 5- to 6-year-old children worked long hours for just a small amount, a fraction of what their adult counterparts would earn.
Even then, the events associated with Labor Day often turned into violent protests, including the famous 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, where several people were killed, including policemen. In May 1894, also in Chicago, troops were dispatched to break up a riot of the American Railroad Union outside the Pullman Palace Car Company. A dozen laborers were killed in this riot. Later that year, the “holiday” was made official by Congress.
So, while you enjoy friends, family and little barbeque, have a nice, violence-free day off and celebrate having a job, if you still have one.
Marijo Tinlin is the editor in chief of Family First, one of the oldest family-oriented websites on the internet. She is also the author of the new book “How to Raise an American Patriot, Making it Okay for Our Kids to Be Proud to Be American” available at www.raisinganamericanpatriot.com.