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What is Labor Day About (Besides Grilling)?

Construction Workers
(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Labor Day is the unofficial end of summer, a last celebration before the school year gets going and winter descends. But, what is the holiday about, what does it celebrate? It is a celebration of the American worker. The men and women that make things, build things, serve food, stock shelves, drive trucks, clean up, fix stuff and everything in between.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker. -US Department of Labor Website

The first Labor Day celebrations were in the early 1880s in New York City when labor  organizations would plan a day of demostrations and picnics.

On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history. The idea of a “workingmen’s holiday,” celebrated on the first Monday in September, caught on in other industrial centers across the country, and many states passed legislation recognizing it. – History.com

The first state to pass Labor Day legistation was Oregon in 1887. On June 28th, 1894 Congress passed a law making the first Monday in September the federal Labor Day holiday.

As we grill and chill this weekend keep in mind the people that worked to create the weekend. And worked to provide a path to upward mobility. While you grill think about the people that raised that cow, grew the food to feed that cow, drove it to market, work in the processing plant, stock the shelves at the store and checked you out at that store. Have a happy Labor Day, we worked (and work) hard for it.

NEXT: What is Cinco de Mayo?


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