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Labor Day 2010: Take a Load Off

September 8, 2010

FOR OVER 100 years, the people of America have been celebrating Labor Day. And although it has evolved from a labor union celebration into the final bash of summer, the holiday does continue to be held yearly on the first Monday of September.

The first ever Labor Day related event was held in 1882 in New York when a parade was arranged in honor of the working class by the Knights of Labor. Shortly there after, the Knight passed a resolution to hold all future parades and celebrations on the same day, the first Monday in September. At that time, the organization also decided to refer to the event as Labor Day.

Even though the holiday is credited to the orgination, still, today, there remains doubt as to which member of the Knights proposed the holiday.

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 as others believe another man first formulated the idea for the holiday.

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.

Maquire, a machinist, may well have first shared the idea for Labor Day and perhaps it was the similarity in the two surnames that caused the confusion but when it comes down to giving credit for Labor Day, what is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

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 them developed the movement 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 added 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.

The annual observance is a creation of the labor movements and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of all American works. It constitutes a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strngth, prosperity and well-being of America.

And, although the original outline for the observance - a street parade exhibiting to the public the strength and cooperation of the trade and labor organizations of the community - those characterists have under change but the opporunity to pay tribute to the American workers remains and is a welcome holiday break to young and old alike - indicating the end of summer.

Sedgmer may be reached at



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