When you think of Labor Day, what comes to mind? For many people, we think of BBQ, the unofficial end of the summer season, and a random Monday off of work resulting in a three day weekend. However, the history of Labor Day should be of great significance in the United States for working class people across the country. As the son of a union carpenter and a union teacher, Chicago workers’ compensation attorney, Brent Eames, looks forward every year to celebrating the American worker on Labor Day by remembering the sacrifices of our forefathers in building America, and fighting for the rights of the working class. Keep reading to learn more about this great holiday and why we celebrate by taking a day off.
The Labor Day holiday is rooted in the uprising of unions across the country. As the industrial revolution peaked in the mid 19th Century, America’s workers often found themselves in poor and dangerous working conditions. 12 hour work days for six days per week were not uncommon. There were poor rules and oversight regarding work conditions and safety. Work spaces were overcrowded and cramped, with low levels of pay, and a lack of basic healthcare, education and rights. Organized labor unions were developed by the working class to fight for increased wages, reasonable hours, and safer working conditions. As a result of the development of unions, efforts were lead which resulted in stopping child labor, and providing basic health benefits and compensation to workers, including those who were injured or retired.
By the end of the nineteenth century, the organized labor movement grew more powerful across the country. National recognition was sought as an annual national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength and prosperity of America. This proposed holiday would have the added benefit of allowing workers to miss work to organize and unite to help celebrate the American worker. According to the United State Department of Labor, New York was the first state to introduce a bill, but Oregon was the first to pass a law recognizing Labor Day, on February 21, 1887. On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.
This year, we hope that as you celebrate Labor Day, you are able to take some time away from work to relax, socialize, and remember the contributions and resilience of the American worker. As our country continues to evolve with newer generations being born into the rights which prior generations were forced to fight and sacrifice for, it is important to never forget our history.