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Labor Day
  . . .What's It For?

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the prosperity and well-being of our country.

"Labor Day differs in every essential 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."

It was hard times in the days of depression that hit the country in the 1880s. It led to widespread wage cuts and unemployment in the traditional pattern of the economic cycle. This was when the Knights of Labor came into being. It was their initiative that Labor Day turned out to be a civic event with parades and meetings.

The First Labor Day

Contrary to the present practice 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. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, l883.

However, it was in l884 when the first Monday in September came to be selected as the holiday, as originally proposed. 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 l885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

The Founder

There is a difference of opinion regarding the original founder of the day. Two views, both backed by documentary evidence, are prevalent.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was the first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

Irrespective of the dispute over the name of the initiator it is clear that the Labor Day proposal was initiated in the United States by the Knights of Labor. Accordingly a committee was formed to plan a demonstration and picnic. In 1882 the Knights of Labor held a large parade in New York City. In 1884 the group held a parade on the first Monday of September and passed a resolution to hold all future parades on that day and to designate the day as Labor Day. However the state recognition of the day was yet to come.

The Recognition

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 2l, l887. During the year four more states -- Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York -- created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit.

Labor Day 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.

National Labor Day was born off the labor movement during the late 19th century. The Day is a milestone in the history of American labor movement.

Labor Day:  A Goodbye to Summer!

Labor Day is seen as the last long weekend of summer rather than a day for political organizing. In 1995, less than 15 percent of American workers belonged to unions, down from a high in the 1950's of nearly 50 percent, though nearly all have benefited from the victories of the Labor movement.

And everyone who can takes a vacation on the first Monday of September. Friends and familes gather, and clog the highways, and the picnic grounds, and their own backyards -- and bid farewll to summer.

Maxine Cartoon

Labor Day FUN for the Kids!

Labor Day for Kids - A collection of ideas to use in the classroom or homeschooling to celebrate Labor Day and creative ideas for this holiday! - Send someone you love a very special Labor Day greeting card.

To order the following books, click on the book cover or the link.
Fun Works Fun Works: Creating Places Where People Love to Work - Leslie Yerkes - Fun Works presents real-life case studies and interviews with dozens of leading authors, companies and individuals that illustrate eleven important principles for creating a fun and productive and profitable workplace. Fun Works provides tips, resources, examples, and motivation to make it easy and fun to unleash the power of fun in yourself, your coworkers, and your customers! "Gurus of Fun" authors and experts offer their spin on each principle. Fun Works shares the voices of individuals, diverse in their backgrounds and professions, who express how work and fun merge for them.
Daddies at Work - Eve Merriam - Ethnically diverse and warmly illustrated, this book helps young children understand what Daddy is doing when he "goes to work" every day. An Aladdin Picture Book. Daddies at Work
Mommies at Work Mommies at Work - Eve Merriam - Soft illustrations show mommies from diverse ethnic backgrounds working in various occupations, but the gentle text assures children that mommies like nothing better than coming home to them at the end of each day. An Aladdin Picture Book.
The Loyalty Link: How Loyal Employees Create Loyal Customers - Dennis G. McCarthy - In an age of consumerism, downsizing, and frequent layoffs, it may seem that loyalty in the marketplace has fallen victim to the fast buck and the quick fix. In The Loyalty Link, however, Dennis McCarthy reveals that loyalty - between a business and its customers, between employer and employee - is a major competitive advantage. Businesses that develop loyalty links to their employees will consistently retain loyal customers and gain a competitive edge. The Loyalty Link
Fun Works The American Bar Association Guide to Workplace Law: Everything You Need to Know About Your Rights As an Employee or Employer - Barbara J. Fick - The law affects just about every aspect of work, from hiring to firing to retiring. Now, as they've done with wills and estates, home ownership, family law, and consumer law, the American Bar Association has written this clear and compact guide to all the law that one needs to know, whether employee or employer. As in all ABA books, the advice is dependable and in plain English - not "legalese."

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