Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

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This Labor Day as many of us enjoyed a long weekend with cooling temperatures and neighborhood barbecues, almost none of us truly understand why we celebrate the holiday.  As an employment lawyer working for employees with minimum wage and overtime claims arising out of working too many hours for too little pay, I would be remiss to allow this holiday to pass without mention.  Therefore, I sat down at my computer and began doing some research into the history of Labor Day to try to figure out why most of us know so little about this holiday.  Most of us understand that Labor Day must have something to do with labor, but the holiday has many different meanings that are completely unrelated to labor or the labor movement.

To some, Labor Day is the last day where it is fashionable to wear white clothing.  As Labor Day is often viewed as the symbolic end of the summer, many children understand that Labor Day marks the closing of their neighborhood pool.  Labor Day also serves to kick off football season and the start of a new school year.  According to others, Labor Day serves as the unofficial start of the presidential campaign season over a year before the November election.  Actually, the holiday was created to promote the strength and spirit of trade and labor organizations by celebrating the economic and social contributions of America’s workers.

The creation of the holiday, itself, was not without controversy.  In May of 1882, Peter McGuire of the American Federation of Labor proposed that a holiday be established to celebrate America’s working population, but it was not until 12 years later when it became a federally recognized holiday in 1894 only after many workers had died in the famous Pullman Strikes of 1894.  The Pullman Strikes occurred when 3,000 railroad employees refused to work after a widespread wage reductions.  The strike was eventually broken up by US Marshals and Army troops sent in by President Grover Cleaveland and lead to the death of 13 strikers and the wounding of 57 other workers.  Fearing further conflict, Congress quickly pushed through legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday just six days after the end of the Pullman Strikes.

So rather than simply moving your white clothes into the basement for storage and packing away your swimming suit until next year, we should all consider the significant contributions that we all make to our economic and social communities while we enjoy a cold drink with our friends and family.  If you do not believe that your economic and social contributions in the workplace have been respected and have questions about your legal rights.  Contact the employment law attorneys at Osman & Smay LLP for a free consultation today.