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Labor Day: A True Holiday

Labor Day: A True Holiday

Most everyone knows that the official summer season starts with Memorial Day weekend and ends with Labor Day. While many equate the first Monday in September with a day at the beach, backyard barbecues and great sales at your favorite store, Labor Day is a federal holiday dedicated to American workers.

Established more than 100 years ago, Labor Day is a holiday to celebrate the efforts of American workers that have strengthened our country's wealth, prosperity and security. It's important to remember that as America entered the heart of the Industrial Revolution, it wasn't uncommon for workers as young as 5 or 6 years of age to work 12 hours a day in dangerous conditions at incredible peril to their life and limb. While some states regulated working conditions, the life the average factory worker faced incredible hardship on a daily basis just to put food on the table.

In the post-Civil War era of manufacturing and industrial growth, the need for improved working conditions became evident, which led to the rise of labor unions. However, many of these unions were small and didn't have the influence needed to bring about change. The Knights of Labor and The Central Labor Union got together to organize the first Labor Day on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. At that time in history, there were no weekends, so in reality, the parade was a mass strike or "workingmen's holiday."

While The Central Labor Union hosted the second Labor Day event the following year, it wasn't until 1885 that the call for a state-recognized Labor Day grew. After many local governments had passed ordinances to create a Labor Day, activists called on the states to pass legislation marking it an official holiday. Oregon was the first state to pass such a bill in 1887, and Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York soon followed. However, it wasn't until 1894 when a majority of states had passed legislation creating a holiday for workers that Congress passed an act marking the first Monday in September as a federal holiday.

The founders of Labor Day planned to showcase the spirit of the American worker with a festive parade that culminated at a festival for all to enjoy. As years passed, these events provided an ideal backdrop for politicians and civic leaders to speak about labor issues to the American worker. While many prominent figures will make grand speeches on Labor Day, many American workers enjoy the extra time off during the three-day weekend and celebrate with their friends and family.

This Labor Day weekend, you are encouraged to think past the barbecues and sales and take a moment to remember the invaluable contributions of working men and women that make this country great. It's important that we take the time to reflect and remember on those dark chapters of history and what we can do to make the world a better place.

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