Labor Day, is a legal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September in the United States, Puerto Rico, the Canal Zone, and the Virgin Islands.
Canada also celebrates Labour Day on the same day.
In European countries, China and other parts of the world, May Day, the first day in May, is a holiday to celebrate workers and labor unions.
What Labor Day Means
For most people, Labor Day means two things: a day off and a chance to say goodbye to the summer. But why is it called Labor Day? Labor Day is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women; it honors the American labor movement and the contributions that workers have made to the strength, prosperity, laws and well-being of the country.
It has been celebrated as a national holiday in the United States and Canada since 1894.
“Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country,” said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. “All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man’s prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day…is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation.”
On Labour Day, federal offices are closed, as well as state offices and most city offices. The United States Postal Service is considered a federal office, so there will be no mail deliveries and the post office will be closed. Most banks will be closed, along with the stock markets.
Who started Labor Day?
Like most cultural events, there is still some doubt over its origination. Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor working men and women.
However many believe that it was Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, who founded the holiday as recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.
Whoever the source was, what we do know is that the Central Labor Union adopted the Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
The First Labor Day
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union.
In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.
In the USA, governmental recognition first came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.