So, When Did Labor Day Start you ask? Well, according to the United States Department of Labor, the earliest Labor Day celebrations took place in the late 1800s and were held unofficially by labor organizers and individual states.
Even though New York became the first state to propose a law honoring Labor Day, Oregon was the initial state to enact a statute officially recognizing the holiday in 1887. Colorado and Massachusetts, New Jersey, and even New York jumped on board by the end of the 1887s.
Joshua Freeman, a historian as well as a professor at the University of New York, who was interviewed by Real News Cast, said the holiday originated during a time when unions were beginning to flourish again following a slump that occurred in the 1870s.
According to Freeman, the development of Labor Day was influenced by the confluence of two events that took place in the city of New York. First, the Central Labor Union, which no longer exists, was established as an “umbrella body” for various unions representing different trades and ethnic groups.
In addition, the city was the location of a convention held by the Knights of Labor, which at the time was the largest national labor convention. This convention included a large parade. Because the parade was held on a Tuesday at the beginning of September, a large number of employees have been able to attend.
However, the conference was a resounding success, and as a result, labor organizations all across the country began hosting their own labor festivals at the beginning of September, often on the very first Monday of such a month.
When it first started, “it was a really daring step to partake because you’ll get terminated if you went,” Freedman said. “It was a pretty daring move to join.” But as time went on, states started to officially recognize the holiday, it became more standard practice for companies to offer their workers the day off on that certain holiday.
The statute that established Labor Day as a nationally recognized public holiday on the 1st of September was not enacted by Congress until the 28th of June, 1894.
According to Freeman, President Grover Cleveland intervened in the Pullman railway strike earlier that year by sending in the military to put an end to it.
In what Freeman referred to as a “gesture toward organized labor,” the city of Cleveland quickly passed legislation to mark Labor Day just a few days after the strike came to an end.
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