Labor Day is a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of the United States of America. Who founded Labor Day? Well, that fact is not quite certain, even after celebrating 126 Labor Day holidays. Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was the first to suggest setting aside a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” However, recent research seems to support that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. This research shows that Matthew Maguire proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is certain, is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
This plan was put into action with the first Labor Day holiday being celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday the following year, on September 5, 1883, a Wednesday. Then in 1884, the first Monday in September was chosen as the holiday, as was originally proposed. The Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York, and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. By 1885, Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country as a result of the growth of labor organizations.
The first proposal of the Labor Day holiday suggested the way in which it should be celebrated The celebration would include a street parade to show the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. Speeches by prominent men and women came about later, as more importance was placed on the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
Congress was slow to pass a Labor Day act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. Municipalities were the first to enact laws to celebrate the holiday, then states, and finally, on June 28 1894, Labor Day became a Federal holiday. Labor Day has been celebrated every year since with parades, speeches, and picnics, all to pay tribute to the American worker, who is responsible for so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership. So, on this Labor Day, I send out a big thank you to all the laborers of this great country, the United States of America!