The history of Labor Day Weekend began in 1882. It is a holiday celebrated on the first Monday of September. Held in honor of workers, its roots can be traced to New York but it is now observed in the whole of America.
The date was chosen by the Central Labor Union. The organization was based in New York and they wanted a day reserved for the hard working citizens of the country. However, it took Congress a dozen years to make it into a federal holiday. The date it was approved was June 28, 1894.
Two events are generally held responsible for the Congressional approval. The first were the May Day Riots of 1894. This event would prove important in the history of Labor Day Weekend.
The riots took place in Cleveland, Ohio. The city was suffering from an economic crisis. Eventually scores of people lost their jobs and this led to the massive demonstrations and rallies. These became violent and led to confrontations with authorities. The other incident was the Haymarket affair.
The Haymarket Affair
The official recognition date for this event is May 4. However, its influence on the holiday and labor policies cannot be denied. The incident took place on May 4 1886 in Chicago. The place was Haymarket Square (Chicago) and there was a demonstration for labor workers. Suddenly a bomb exploded. Gunfire and chaos ensued, leading to the death of eight policemen and several laymen.
In a decision that affected the history of Labor Day Weekend, eight laborers were found guilty of throwing the bomb. They were labeled anarchists and half were executed. The trial and conviction (rightly or wrongly) is held by workers as responsible for creating the stereotype image. That is that workers are anarchists who will instigate riots to get what they want.
The Event Today
The holiday is commemorated today with a series of parades and celebrations. The parades come in many forms and shapes but the central theme remains the same. It is a celebration of the working man and woman. Most of these parades and celebrations are also participated in by their families.
The history of Labor Day Weekend saw changes in the events. The parades were soon accompanied by speeches. These were usually done by prominent people in the movement or leaders of various labor organizations. There are also some rallies for or against government policies. Most of the political rallies nowadays though, take place on May 1.
Most of the time however, the weekend has become a time for workers and their families to get together. The labor organizations use the time to serve up picnics, sporting events and fireworks. Because it usually heralds the final days of summer, kids and teens use the time to come together and have fun. Major sports like the NFL (National Football League) and NCAA college basketball begin during
this time too.
While the history of Labor Day Weekend has undergone changes, the basic meaning has remained the same. It is a celebration of the working class individual.