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Labor Day  


Labor Day
By Sarah Lane
Aug 7, 2012, 18:51 PST



Labor Day

Labor Day

 

There’s one weekend during the year where suddenly we realize that summer’s almost gone.  While we bask in the dimming light and recall vacations, special events, picnics, and barbeques that made the summer special, we must remember who we owe for this last three-day weekend; American Labor Unions. 

 

This holiday began over a century ago with very different intentions than that which are celebrated today.  Along with the increase in United States industrialization at the turn of the 20th century came harsh working conditions, poor living situations, long hours, less pay, and no job security.  It’s important to remember the benefits we now have as a result of the Labor Movements’ advancement. Labor Day is a celebration of the working class. 

 

A man named Peter McGuire was one of the first to organize a Labor Movement as he joined with over 100,000 workers for a strike in spring of 1872.  McGuire’s idea of unionizing or organizing workers according to their trade began to catch on all over the country. 

 

One famous example is the strike of The American Railway Union led by Eugene V. Debs.  When the strike got out of hand due to the burning and looting of railway cars, President Grover Cleveland declared the strike a federal crime and sent 12,000 troops to diffuse the situation.  Two men were killed as a result and on August 3rd, 1894 the strike was decidedly over. 

 

In an effort to make up for the loss of lives and as a ploy for re-election, Cleveland signed a bill six days later naming the first Monday of September Labor Day.  He lost the election but the holiday still stands.  The first states to celebrate the holiday were Oregon, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, and New Jersey.  Other industrialized countries such as Canada also celebrate Labor Day.  On September 5th, 1882, the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City with over 20,000 workers marching along the streets. 

 

The idea of a Union has definitely served its purpose over the last several decades but is slowly becoming scarce.  What once was a fierce topic of debate is now a wake up call for those unprepared for back-to-school week.  An important contribution to our history, Labor Day is a day to remember the movement that awarded us the comfortable working conditions we so enjoy when not bathing in the sunshine.

 

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