The Origin of the US Labor Day in the U.S.

Labor Day in the U.S. is celebrated on the first Monday in September and pays tribute to the contributions of the American workers to prosperity, laws, and well-being of the United States.  Why is it different from May 1st in the European countries, and who originated Labor Day in the US?

The Father of Labor Day

Labor Day is said to be the idea of Peter J. McGuire, a vice president of the American Federation of Labor, who proposed it to the labor unions in the spring of 1882.   According to McGuire, he further recommended that the event should begin with a street parade as a public demonstration of organized labor’s solidarity and strength, with the march followed by a picnic, to which participating local unions could sell tickets as a fundraiser.

McGuire suggested the first Monday in September due to its optimum weather and the date’s place on the calendar, midway between July 4th and Thanksgiving, two important holidays in the U.S.  Labor Day weekend marks the unofficial end of summer.  In 1887 Oregon celebrated Labor Day as a public holiday the first time.  In 1894 thirty states had followed its example.  Labor Day had finally become a federal holiday.

The Origin of US Labor DayTo learn about the reason why Labor Day doesn’t coincide with May 1st International Workers’ Day, please read on.  May Day originates in an ancient northern hemisphere spring festival that became May 1st Workers’ Day.  Most people living in the United States know little about the International Workers’ Day of May Day.  For many others there is an assumption that it is a holiday celebrated in communist countries.  Most Americans don’t realize that May Day has its origins in the US and is as “American” as baseball and apple pie, and stemmed from the pre-Christian holiday of Beltane, a celebration of rebirth and fertility.

President Grover Cleveland was concerned with making May 1st a holiday in the US, due to its proximity to the terrible May 4th, 1886, Haymarket Massacre.   Workers were striking for the eight-hour workday on that day in history.  To him it seemed this day would become an annual commemoration of  the events that happened in Chicago on May 4th, 1886.  Strangely, the International Workers’ Day started in Chicago on May 1st, 1886; approximately 66 countries all over the world commemorate it every year.  It’s almost forgotten in the country of its origin–the United States.

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