What is Labor Day?


Photographed on July 14, 2021, the Confederate battle flag, etched on this war memorial, erected in 1913 in Greenwood, Miss., by the Varina Jefferson Davis Chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy, in Greenwood, Miss., sits on the lawn of the Leflore County Courthouse, as the American flag flies in the background. For more than a century, one of Mississippi’s largest and most elaborate Confederate monuments has looked out over the lawn at the courthouse in the center of Greenwood. It’s a Black-majority city with a rich civil rights history. Officials voted last year to remove the statue, but little progress has been made to that end. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

(ABC4) – While Labor Day may mean a day off for some or the unofficial end to summer for others, the September holiday has been a part of American history for more than a century. But what is it for?

Observed on the first Monday in September, Labor Day celebrates the “social and economic achievements of American workers,” according to the Department of Labor. In the late 19th century, the DOL says labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.

Records show two workers – Peter McGuire and Matthew Maguire – can claim the title of the Founder of Labor Day. The DOL says both suggested the holiday but recent research shows Maquire proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary for the Central Labor Union in New York. Both men attended the country’s first Labor Day parade in New York City.

Before becoming a federal holiday, Labor Day was recognized in just a handful of states. New York was the first state to introduce a bill to make Labor Day a state holiday but Oregon was the first to make it happen in February 1887.

That same year, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York passed laws to create a Labor Day holiday. By 1890, the DOL says Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania passed their own laws. By the time Congress passed an act to make the first Monday in September a legal holiday on June 28, 1894, 23 more states had already adopted the holiday.

According to the DOL, the first proposal for a holiday suggested Labor Day be observed with a street parade followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. Those traditions carry through to today, 127 years later, with many Americans celebrating the day with parades, picnics, and parties.

If you are planning to celebrate Labor Day outside, be sure to stay up-to-date with Utah’s Most Accurate Forecast here.

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