Why Is Labor Day Celebrated? - NYCM Insurance Blog

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Sep 6, 2021

Why Is Labor Day Celebrated?

While many may think of Labor Day as one last chance to grill in the late summer’s heat or to take a dip in the pool, it’s important to know that it’s more than just another three-day weekend. Observed the first Monday in September each year, Labor Day is a celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers. Continue reading to learn more about the history of Labor Day.


Labor Day was created to recognize the efforts of labor workers following the labor movement of the 19th century, which demanded an end to the harsh working conditions, extremely limited time off, and unlivable wages that were common during that time. During the Industrial Revolution, Americans were working an average of 12 hours or more a day, seven days a week. Although there were some states that enforced age restrictions, many children as young as five years old were working in mines, mills, and factories, while making a fraction of what their elders earned. People from lower classes were forced to work in unsafe conditions to support their families.


Because of these poor working conditions, the labor unions that first appeared in the late 18th century began organizing protests. They stood up against the low wages and demanded employers reevaluate the number of hours worked, as well as the environments being worked in. It was not uncommon that these protests ended violently.


On September 5th, 1882, a total of 10,000 workers united to go on an unpaid strike. They marched from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, which is the march we know today as the first Labor Day Parade. While this march was an important achievement in the history of American workers, as well as an opportunity to impact legislation across the country, it did not put an end to the poor working conditions and low wages in the U.S. at the time.


It wasn’t until 12 years later, in 1894, that the problems American workers faced were brought to light. On May 11th, 1894, employees at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike as a result of wage cuts and the firing of representatives in their union. One month later, the American Railroad Union boycotted the use of Pullman railway cars, causing railroad traffic nationwide to suffer immensely. As a result, the federal government sent troops to Chicago to assist in controlling and ending the strike, however this effort resulted in intense rioting and the unfortunate deaths of many.


On June 28, 1894, two days after the deadly riots in Chicago, President Grover Cleveland signed Labor Day into law as a legal holiday in Washington D.C. and all territories.


While many now celebrate Labor Day with picnics and parties, it’s important to note that the labor rights we have in the United States were fought for. As you take time to enjoy the day, be sure to remember and thank those that paved the way toward the working conditions and regulations we now have in the United States.