Labor Day 2021 falls next Monday, September 6. We here at The Crossroads Chronicle will be closed in observance of the holiday. Advertising and editorial deadlines have been bumped up one business day so if you have something you’d like to be included in our September 8 paper, please contact someone on our staff by Friday, September 3.
A brief explanation
If we’re being honest, most of us love a day off work. Labor Day provides that for many Americans. However, do you know what this holiday is actually about? If you don’t, keep reading! Let us fill you in.
Always held on the first Monday in September, Labor Day is a national holiday here in the United States. For many people, it’s symbolic of the end of summer and the start of a new school year, celebrated with barbecuing and shopping.
However, Labor Day was envisioned by its founders as a celebration of the American worker and the great American work ethic. A creation of the labor movement in the late 1800s, the first Labor Day celebrations were parades to show the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by festivals designed for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. Speeches by prominent union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics, and government officials were among the day’s highlights.
In the U.S., the first Labor Day parade was held Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday and on June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a law making the first Monday in September a legal national holiday every year.
Labor Day was all about the American workforce, the driving engine behind the most productive economy in the world, and a work ethic that resulted in one of the highest standards of living in the world. All of this came out of a belief in economic and political democracy. Of course, Labor Day not only celebrated workers but also protected their quality of life, addressing the problems of the day—from long working hours to lack of time off.
So, by this point, you might be wondering who started Labor Day… And that’s fair enough. History records reflect that Labor Day was the idea of Peter J. Maguire (although recent research has shown that it might have been his brother Matthew’s idea), a labor union leader who, in 1882, proposed a celebration honoring the American worker. Maguire was the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. The date chosen was simply “convenient.” Maguire suggested that this date would nicely fall “nearly midway between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving.”
Recent research indicates that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, New Jersey, proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What historians do know is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and made it happen!
By this point, you might be wondering how we’re supposed to observe Labor Day. Again, fair enough.
Although the focus on organized labor has diminished over the years, the holiday has become the last hurrah of summer—with a barbecue and day off work for many Americans. Even though the American workforce has changed dramatically since the Industrial Revolution, many Americans still work more hours and take less vacation than our western counterparts. We are constantly connected to our jobs with little respite; we all desire a good standard of living.
So, whether you work on a farm, at a plant, in an office, or at a home business, we hope you will take this day of honor, find some work/life balance, and reflect on your good work. After all, at work is where and how we spend the majority of our time!
Also, take a moment to reflect on this history and the many American workers who came before us—to build our railways, roads, infrastructure, and more. Then, go to a picnic or barbecue as our ancestral workers did so many years ago!