Article adapted from History.com’s article on Labor Day by Allison Quarrella
Before Labor Day was recognized as a holiday in the United States, there was much civil unrest between workers and their employers. Many employed people in the US were working in factories and railroads during the height of the Industrial Revolution. Due to the awful working conditions many of these workers suffered, unions set up strikes and marches to protest. Many of these protests and strikes became violent, however one march became the precursor to Labor Day.
On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City. This march became the first ever Labor Day parade. More industrial centers across the US took notice of this march and decided to hold a “workingman’s holiday” on the first Monday of September.
While many states recognized Labor Day in the following years, it took 12 years and a violent response to a railroad strike in 1894 for Congress to recognize Labor Day and legalize it as a national holiday.
Today we celebrate Labor Day in recognition of the workers who sacrificed life and limb to protest awful conditions and wages—and today’s workers who suffer less than ideal working conditions.
For more information on why we celebrate Labor Day, and who is credited with creating the holiday, go to https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day-1