Monday, September 07, 2009

Celebrating Labor Day

Today, Monday, September 7, the United States and Canada celebrate Labor Day. According to Robert E. Weir, the holiday originated from rallies and protests held by late nineteenth-century workers. In 1882, Knights of Labor members helped organize a large rally in Providence, Rhode Island. A few weeks later, the New York Central Labor Union (a consortium of local unions related to the Knights of Labor) planned an even larger event for Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in which approximately 30,000 to 40,000 laborers marched. Over the next ten years, workers in other states began to celebrate on the first Monday in September, and state legislatures began to recognize the day as a holiday. On June 28, 1894, Congress declared Labor Day a federal holiday. Weir concludes that "since the mid-1950s, the holiday has moved from a day of protest to a more commemorative event. Ideologues hold that Labor Day wraps America's bloody labor history in a false cloak of respectability, while its defenders see it as an important affirmation of working-class heritage and culture."

Source: Robert E. Weir, "Labor Day." Historical Encyclopedia of American Labor, v.1. Westport: Greenwood, 2004: 267-268.
Call number: REF HD 8066.H57 2004
Library subject heading: Labor -- United States -- History -- Encyclopedias

While most federal and state offices are closed to observe Labor Day, Armacost Library is open today from 8 am to 5 pm. Stop by and take a moment to learn more about the history of the American labor movement!

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