Updated: Sep 6
Alia Seblini, Staff Writer
I’m sure everyone loved their three-day break this past weekend, but how many can say that they know the meaning behind Labor Day...and whether the belief behind it still exists?
History of Labor Day
At the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour workdays, seven days a week. For only a fraction of their adult co-workers wages, children as young as five or six worked in mills, factories and mines across the country.
Because of such terrible hours and working conditions, labor unions grew more prominent and began forcing employers to renegotiate hours and pay by organizing strikes and rallies as protest.
On Sept. 5, 1882, after a lot of blood, sweat and tears, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from city hall to Union Square in New York City, creating the first “Labor Day parade” in U.S. history.
Labor unions and activists pushed for this federal holiday in order to recognize the workers that have built America’s strength, prosperity and well-being. However, Congress did not legalize the holiday until 12 years later.
The Idea Behind Labor Day
The economic and civic significance of the holiday creates a space for speeches by workers, for workers to be shared around the nation. In fact, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor Convention of 1909, the Sunday before Labor Day was made into Labor Sunday, which is dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement. Knowledge of the labor movement is vital for Americans to ensure their labor rights do not continue to regress.
Monday is considered the most difficult work day, as it’s the first day back to work after the weekend. Having time off on this day gives overworked Americans one last summer moment with their families and friends and a chance to prepare for the fall. Corporations celebrate with Labor Day deals and codes, while a majority of Americans will go to parades and host cookouts. Others take the time to travel because of the resulting three-day weekend.
Does The Founding Idea Still Stand?
Labor Day is not the emboldening holiday it once was, but activists still use it every year as an opportunity to educate and an attempt to unite the working class.
Working conditions, hours, and pay are still something that haunts many Americans to this day. A $7.25 federal minimum wage gives a pitiful paycheck, regardless of the amount of hours worked. Even if every waking hour (12 hours a day, 7 days a week) was spent working for this federal minimum wage (a $2,436 monthly paycheck) it will not cover the average cost of living in America (between $2,500 and $3,500 per month).