Labor Day, it's the last hurrah of the summer season in the States. So, how did this holiday that celebrates American workers and their achievements come to be?
In the late nineteenth-century, during the Industrial Revolution, workers were on the job twelve hours a day and seven days a week. Young children, as young as five or six, were employed in mills, factories, and mines, working long hours and getting paid a small fraction of adult salaries.
Rallies and strikes were organized by labor unions, demanding better pay, breaks, shorter workdays, and making places of work safer. In the early manufacturing and mining industries, people didn't have enough access to fresh air and were compelled to be in dirty and dangerous conditions.
Progress was hard-won. Violence with loss of life occurred in the fight for safer workplaces and fair wages. The Haymarket Riot in 1886 caused the death of several police officers and workers in Chicago. In 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company, also in Chicago, protested about wage cuts and the firing of union reps. When the leader of the American Railroad Union called for the boycotting of all Pullman cars, it crippled the nation's railways. Federal troops were dispatched to Chicago, which spurred riots and the deaths of more than twelve people.
Congress wanted to repair the government's relationship with the American workforce and passed an act creating Labor Day. President Grover Cleveland signed it into law on June 24, 1894.
Read the article I used for reference, “Labor Day 2020,” on History.com.
Be safe this holiday weekend. Wear masks in public and social distance. Let's hope next year we'll be able to make up for the barbecues and parties with friends and family we’re missing now.