OHIO VALLEY — For many, Labor Day has become a symbol that marks the end of summer; a time for the last cookout and the beginning of school without thought as to the origins or meaning of the day.
So what is Labor Day and why do we celebrate in September?
Labor Day is an important part of American history that began with the the formation of labor unions and a movement for workers rights. It represented an acknowledgement of the workers.
The U.S.Department of Labor defines Labor Day as the first Monday in September, a creation of the labor movement and a day dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, constituting a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
According to Linda Stinson, a former U.S. Department of Labor historian, the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, with a parade of unions followed by a picnic in New York City’s Wendel’s Elm Park.
The idea of Labor Day had evolved over a number of years as the labor movement in the U.S. grew stronger. Labor issues such as shorter hours and better working conditions were being supported with parades and picnics. Local unions in New York City were joining together into one large union called Central Labor Union. They proposed having one large labor day festival and began promoting it in 1882.
Around 200 workers began the parade, and their ranks grew as other workers joined in. The parade totaled approximately 10,000 participants by the time it reached Wendel’s Elm Park.
Decorated with flags of many nations, everyone picnicked, drank beer and listened to speeches from the union leadership. The crowd continued to grow into an estimated at 25,000. The evening ended with fireworks and dance. Newspapers was declared the day a huge success and called it “a day of the people.”
As a result of the success of that day, other unions acrosss the county began celebrating Labor Day. As states began to creating their own state Labor Days, support for a national holiday grew. A bill was introduced by Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota to the 53rd Congress to make Labor Day a legal holiday on the first Monday of September each year — and was approved on June 28, 1894.
Labor Day was to be observed and celebrated by a street parade, the purpose of which, according to the bill, was to exhibit to the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. “
The intent of the bill and outlined observance was respected for some time. As time passed, speeches by prominent men and women were introduced and emphasizes the economic and civic significance of the holiday.
In 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday by the American Federation of Labor and dedicated the day to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
In 2015, the observance of Labor Day has gone from one of celebrating the achievements of American workers to one of cookouts and retail sales.
When compared to global statists. U.S. workers are in the mid-range in number of hours worked annually.
According to the Organization of Economic Coordination and Development (OECD), using numbers gathered by U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the American worker averages annually 1,789 hours. That puts the U.S. at No. 12 of the 32 OECD countries. South Korea, Mexico and Greece tops the chart in hours worked.
According to Forbes Magazine, although France’s has a reputation for a short 35-hour week, the French aren’t the OECD’s most leisurely workers: at the bottom of the list are the Dutch, who work an average 1,391 hours per year, preceded by Norway and Germany.
There are many factors contributing to the difference in hours worked, include types of employment; countries who have more people who are self-employed such as Greece or informally employed such as Mexico, tend to have longer average hours. Government policies, including taxation and legal vacation times play a role as well. Culture is also responsible for the difference; South Korean workers average 2,357 hours per year.
Contact Lorna Hart