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  • Labor Day History

    Learn more about the history of Labor Day.

  • President Woodrow Wilson, Samuel Gompers and DOL Secretary William B Wilson

    President Woodrow Wilson (left) with American Federation of Labor President Samuel Gompers (center), and Labor Secretary William B. Wilson at an undated Labor Day rally.

  • Illustration: The First Labor Day Parade, Sept 5, 1882, NYC

    An illustration of the first Labor Day parade, held on Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. The holiday was organized by the Central Labor Union to exhibit "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, and to host a festival for the workers and their families.

  • Pin: Justice to All - Labor Day Helena 1901.

    New York, New Jersey and Colorado were among the first states to approve state legal holidays. In response to support for a national holiday, Sen. James Henderson Kyle of South Dakota introduced a bill to make Labor Day a legal holiday on the first Monday of September each year. It was approved June 28, 1894.

  • Women's Auxiliary Typographical Union.

    After the first celebration in New York City, other localities began to pick up the idea for a fall festival of parades and picnics celebrating workers. Here, the Women's Auxiliary Typographical Union takes part in a Labor Day parade (undated).

  • Horse-drawn Labor Day Float 1916.

    A horse-drawn Labor Day float from 1916. Over time, speeches by prominent men and women were introduced as part of Labor Day, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday.

  • Bakers Union, Local 78, marching

    Members of the Bakers Union Local 78 march in the Detroit, Mich., Labor Day parade. Date unknown, likely 1950s or 60s.

  • Chldren marching in a Labor Day Parade

    Children march in the 1963 New York City Labor Day parade. Since the very first celebration, Labor Day has been a time for families to relax and have fun.

  • 1987 A float celebrates the Department of Labor's diamond jubilee 75th anniversary, Chicago, Ill.

    A float celebrates the Department of Labor's 75th anniversary in the 1987 Chicago Labor Day parade. The vital force of labor in the U.S. has contributed substantially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known.

The History of Labor Day

Labor Day: What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Labor Day Legislation

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

Founder of Labor Day

The father of labor day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The First Labor Day

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and 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. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

A Nationwide Holiday

Women's Auxiliary Typographical Union

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to 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. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon 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.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

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Job Corps Celebrates 50 Years of Opportunity

Job Corps - 50 Years

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson launched a series of programs aimed at restoring our nation's fundamental promise of equality and opportunity. The Economic Opportunity Act, signed on Aug. 20 of 1964 as part of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," established the Job Corps, a residential education and training program for disadvantaged young people ages 16-24. Today, nearly 2.7 million students have benefited from the Job Corps. At 125 centers in 48 states, students today learn the skills necessary to succeed in good jobs with high-growth potential in a dynamic economy. Graduates learn career skills in more than 100 areas – from automotive maintenance to information technology, from health care to hospitality, from construction to IT. Some have become doctors, judges and entertainment executives. All across the country, Job Corps centers are celebrating this historic milestone with demonstrations, open houses, local proclamations, and other events. We're also sharing stories from some of the people whose lives have been most deeply transformed by the program on our blog. You can contribute by submitting your story through our Web form here − or share on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram using the hashtag #JobCorps50.

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