A Brief History of Labor Day


A Brief History of Labor Day

Though we often think of Labor Day as simply a day off work, it actually has a rich history dating back to the late 19th century. Here's a brief overview of how this federal holiday came to be.

The origins of Labor Day can be traced back to 1882, when machinist Matthew Maguire proposed the creation of a holiday to celebrate workers at a meeting of the Central Labor Union in New York City. The idea took hold, and on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in support of the concept. The success of that parade led to similar celebrations across the country in the following years.

In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the date for future Labor Day celebrations, and on June 28 of that year, then-President Grover Cleveland signed a bill making it an official federal holiday. (Interestingly enough, Cleveland actually vetoed an earlier version of the bill because he believed that creating a new holiday during an economic downturn would be inappropriate.)

Though its exact origins are unclear, one popular theory about how Labor Day came to be is that it was created as a way to diffuse tension between workers and employers following the Pullman Strike of 1894. That strike began when workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and poor working conditions. The strike quickly spread across the country, causing widespread disruption to rail traffic. After several workers were killed during confrontations with troops called in to break up the strike, Cleveland declared September 5—the first Monday in September—to be a federal holiday in an attempt to restore calm.

Labor Day may have started as a way to honor America's workers, but these days it's also seen as the unofficial end of summer. Whether you're heading out for one last weekend getaway or firing up the grill for a final backyard barbecue, we hope you have a happy and safe Labor Day!

By Dean Miles

Keywords: Business Continuity, Mental Health, Startups

Share this article