Labor Day is celebrated annually on the first Monday in September, and is a creation of the labor movement that’s dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.
It’s a national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and wellbeing of our country – no small thing.
According to information provided by the U.S. Dept. of Labor, the first governmental recognition of the value and efforts of labor came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886.
From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation and the first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature.
However, the first to become law was passed by Oregon on Feb. 21, 1887. During that year four more states − Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – legally created the Labor Day holiday by acts of their legislatures.
By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit, and by 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers.
Finally, 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.
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there’s 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 to suggest a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."
But Peter J. McGuire's place in Labor Day history hasn’t 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 – who later became 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.
At that point, the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal, appointed a committee and put together a gathering and picnic, that year.
Picnics of course are now an integral part of American Labor Day tradition and it’s how millions of Americans celebrate the U.S. the holiday that honors the invaluable contributions of millions of our country’s workers today.