What Is Labor Day?

Everything you need to know about the national holiday

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Labor Day is a national holiday celebrated all across the United States.

For some of us, Labor Day means a perfect excuse to get some friends together for a barbecue. For others, it means the last day of summer before returning to school or work. But what is the holiday really all about? Why do we celebrate it, and what are we even celebrating?

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day is the first Monday in September dedicated to celebrating the social and economic achievements of American workers. It’s still not certain who first created Labor Day, but some sources point to Peter J. McGuire, the general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, as the founder. McGuire was also a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor.

The heart of Labor Day started during the height of the Industrial Revolution, just as unions started to form to protect the rights of workers. The first Labor Day was on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City when 10,000 workers took unpaid leave to march from City Hall to Union Square. It wasn’t until 1884 that the first Monday in September was designated as the annual date for the holiday. Ten years later, Congress, spurred by growing labor concerns and the 1894 strike on Pullman railroad company, passed an act making Labor Day a national, legal holiday.

Typically, Labor Day is now celebrated with parades, and speeches by union officials and government figures. How will you celebrate the workers of our country this year?

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