Monday, September 04, 2006

The first Labor Day parade occurred on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, when 20,000 workers marched up Broadway with banners that stated "Labor Creates All Wealth" or "Eight Hours for Work; Eight hours for Rest; Eight Hours for Recreation!" The parade was the reaction of disillusioned Americans upset with the 12- to 14-hour workdays in dangerous factories and underground mines. The next year, on September 5, 1883, the Central Labor Union celebrated the second Labor Day holiday.

It was not until two years later that the Central Labor Union proposed that the first Monday in September be a "workingmen's holiday." As the labor organizations grew, so did the idea of a Labor Day holiday. In September of 1892, union workers in New York City took a day without pay to parade around Union Square in support of a Labor Day holiday that would occur midway between Independence Day and Thanksgiving.

Finally, in 1894, President Grover Cleveland, in an effort to boost his presidential campaign, signed legislation making the first Monday in September a national holiday honoring labor. Despite his attempt at appeasement, Cleveland still lost his bid for reelection.

Today, Labor Day lives on in America, not as a day to honor rest from labor (though many people have that day off), but as a day of celebration to mark the end of the summer season and the beginning of a new season. For many, it is the last family vacation trip of the year. For our family, it is usually a day to get caught up on work that needs to be done, and maybe (if we finish) some time at the park.

Copyright 2001 by Rachel Keller