Celebrated annually on the first Monday in September, Labor Day honors the creation of the U.S. labor movement. In 2018, the holiday falls on September 3. Labor Day is more than just a three-day weekend and a symbol of the end of summer. It’s a tribute to the economic and social achievements of American workers, as well as the prosperity and strength the country enjoys.
Working in 19th-Century America
At the height of the Industrial Revolution in the late 1800s, it was common for Americans to work seven days a week, 12 hours a day, to make ends meet. Despite labor-related restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 years old worked in mines, factories, and mills for wages that were just a fraction of what adults earned. Many individuals worked in conditions that were unsafe, poorly ventilated and unsanitary with no breaks.
During this era, manufacturing replaced agriculture as a major employer. Labor unions that formed during this time became more influential and vocal. The groups formed rallies and strikes in protest of the dismal working conditions, compelling employers to take a second look at the hours they demanded and the salaries they paid.
The Picnic of 1882
A tradition of parades and labor-related celebrations was already common in the 1800s. As the labor movement grew stronger, smaller New York labor unions banded together to form the Central Labor Union. In May 1882, the large group proposed throwing a “monster labor festival” in early September. The festival’s committee chose to hold a massive picnic on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in Wendel’s Elm Park, the largest park in New York City at the time. After selling more than 20,000 tickets by June, the labor union passed a resolution proclaiming September 5 would general holiday for workers in the city.
At first, the celebration seemed like a flop. Only a handful of workers participated in the parade and the procession was met with jeers. Soon, 200 workers joined the parade, along with a band from the Jewelers’ Union. A group of bricklayers and their band later joined. When the procession reached the park, about 10,000 workers marched in support. The festival was a hit and newspapers declared September 5 “a day of the people.”
Labor Day in the Making
The Labor Day holiday evolved over a period of years. New York, Colorado, and New Jersey were among the first states to appoint legal Labor Day holidays in 1887. Other states soon joined.
As workers continued to rally and march throughout the years, some of the events turned violent. During the Haymarket Riot of 1886 in Chicago, several workers and police officers were killed. In June 1894, the Pullman strike in Chicago crippled railway traffic across the country after workers called for a boycott against trains that pulled Pullman railway cars. After the federal government dispatched troops, multiple riots cost the lives of 30 people. To help settle the unrest and make amends with railway workers, Congress passed an act that made Labor Day a legal holiday that was to be celebrated on the first Monday of September.
While the originator of Labor Day is unknown, two individuals stand out: Peter J. McGuire and Matthew Maguire. McGuire organized the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and was the Vice President of the American Federation of Labor. Maguire was the first Secretary of the Central Labor Union and reportedly organized the parade of 1882 in New York City.
Solairus Aviation’s Commitment to Our Workers
At Solairus Aviation, we owe our achievements to our hardworking team members. Your vision, talents, expertise, and commitment to excellence make you an integral part of our mission. At Solairus, there are no small roles. Whether you work behind-the-scenes or face-to-face with clients, you are the reason for our success. Because of you, clients and prospects continue to choose Solairus for private jet charter and aircraft management needs. We are proud to have you as part of our family. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to pursuing excellence.