For those of you who don’t know how Labor Day came to be, the origin of this major American national holiday celebrated annually on the first Monday of September was first acknowledged in the late 1800’s at a time when there were harsh working conditions. During that time, American workers were determined to change conditions and decided to go on a strike, which came to be known as Labor Day. On Sept. 5, 1882, a parade was held in New York City for the workers, approximately 10,000 workers marched in the parade, including but not limited to dressmakers, shoemakers and cigar makers. They marched for better pay, fewer work hours (requesting 8 hours/per day) and safer conditions. However, since Labor Day was not yet a national holiday, many participants ran the risk of being fired as they were missing a day of work.
A workers’ movement, known as the American labor movement, significantly impacted the lives of millions of American workers for years to come. Furthermore, in 1877 many states, including New York, implemented a law that recognized Labor Day. While the 1877 parade was a great success, filling the streets to maximum-capacity, Labor Day only became a national holiday years later through the federal government.
On June 28, 1894, President Cleveland finally declared Labor Day a national holiday after a scare of losing the middle-classes’ votes due to the violent Pullman Strike, which resulted in thousands of angry railway workers leading a protest.
Nowadays, Labor Day is a day of celebration in honor of those workers who fought for their rights and won. However, the focus of the day has shifted to barbeques, a beach day, and a plethora of store sales. Let’s not forget the reason Labor Day became of significance in the first place, marginalized workers fighting for the betterment of their people.
This year, the New York Labor Day Parade will be held on September 8th in Crown Heights for any of you who wish to attend.