That Union Thing

The Origins of Labor Day

Labor Day approaches, and it is worth a moment to consider the origin of Labor Day, and the contributions made by workers, and the unions that represent them, to the United States.

While there is still some doubt as to who first proposed a Labor Day holiday, the event was first celebrated in New York City in 1882 at the urging of the Central Labor Union. During the next five years, several other cities created labor day holidays, and by 1887, five states--Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York--had made it a state holiday. In 1894, with 23 states already having made labor day a state holiday, Congress finally passed an act making the first Monday in September the legal holiday known as Labor Day. The holiday is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers and is a tribute to their work in building America's strength and prosperity.

The efforts of American workers have created the highest standard of living and the greatest productivity the world has ever known, and organized union labor sparked the creation of the middle class and fueled consumer demand that drove America's economy to success. Many great achievements have happened because Americans united to work together and make it happen. As former United Auto Workers President Walter Reuther once said, "Every human being deserves dignity and a decent standard of living, and the whole point of the labor movement is to help make that happen." In addition to raising American income and bringing democracy to the workplace, some of those union achievements include the following legislation:

So please take a moment this Labor Day to reflect on not only what we have accomplished together in the past, but on what great things we might be able to achieve in the future by working together.

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