Labor Day History



The Labor Day is all about celebrating the contribution of workers in the United States of America and Canada.

The Labor Day involves people around the globe celebrating the spirit of labor and workforce that can bring positive changes in the society. Read on to know about the history of Labor Day.

Origin of Labor Day

Facts about Labor Day History

Below you will find certain facts associated with the history of Labor Day in the United States and other countries observing this special day.

Origin of Labor Day

  • Many consider the Labor Day to have originated from the workers’ strike that took place in United States on 1st May, 1886.
  • The strike was started by the labor unions who demanded that workers shouldn’t work for more than 8 hours a day. There was a bomb blast in Chicago’s Haymarket Square on May 4. Above 100 people were injured, and several died in the blast.
  • In 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company went on a strike in Chicago. This was a sign of protest against the wage cuts and firing of workers who were representatives of the labor unions.
  • This was followed by a boycott of Pullman railway cars by the American Railroad Union under the leadership of Eugene V. Debs.
  • In response, the federal government sent troops to Chicago to stop a series of riots that resulted in several deaths. This further led the Congress to think about enacting a law in order to declare the Labor Day as a legal holiday.
  • The Labor Day history is often associated with the 1870’s labor disputes in Toronto, Canada. Following the disputes, there was a strike observed against the 58 hour workweek in Canada.
  • The strike was supported by a parade after which 24 union leaders who had organized it were arrested under the anti-union laws.
Origin of Labor Day

First Labor Day Celebration

  • Labor Day was first celebrated in New York City's Union Square on the 5th of September, 1882. The celebrations included public speeches and picnics.
  • In 1909, the American Federation of Labor convention passed a resolution that the Sunday preceding the Labor Day should be considered as Labor Sunday. This day was dedicated to the spiritual aspect of the labor movement.
  • Labor Day celebrations have undergone major changes over the years. Emphasis is given on the economic importance of the Labor Day. Hence, speeches are being given by prominent personalities from all spheres of life, be it economics or civics.
  • Union officials, industrialists, government officials and educators often address the public on the occasion of the Labor Day. The medium of address is not just public speech. In fact, those who address the public use the newspapers, television and radio to convey their messages.
Origin of Labor Day

Labor Day Declared as a Holiday

  • According to some records, Peter J. McGuire, the cofounder of the American Federation of Labor first suggested that Labor Day should be acknowledged as a public holiday.
  • However, other records suggest that Matthew Maguire, a machinist was responsible for the Labor Day being observed as a holiday. Matthew Maguire proposed the Labor Day to be announced as a holiday when he was serving as the secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. A committee was also appointed to plan a demonstration in this regard.
  • The first proposal of the Labor Day being announced as a holiday comprised of how it should be celebrated. It was decided that a street parade would be held to show the strength of the workers to the public. An event was expected to be organized for recreation of the workers and their families.
  • The first U.S. state to enact the bill for governmental recognition of the Labor Day was Oregon. The law was passed on 21st February, 1887. Gradually, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey too passed laws to observe a state holiday on the Labor Day.
  • The states of Nebraska, Connecticut and Pennsylvania passed their laws regarding the Labor Day by the end of the decade. By 1894, 23 more states had acknowledged the Labor Day as a holiday.
  • On 28th June 1894, the Congress passed an act under which the first Monday of September was declared a legal holiday. This was done to celebrate the Labor Day in the District of Columbia and other territories.

Last Updated: 28th August, 2017