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The Evolution of Labor Day Since 1800

by Alex Gauthier, published

Labor Day as a national holiday has progressed through various stages since its official genesis in 1894. The first informal Labor Day was September 5, 1882 organized by Peter J. Mcguire from the Carpenters and Joiners Union.

By 1894, Congress passed a bill that established Labor Day, the first Monday of September, as a federally recognized holiday. Protections for workers rights went through tumultuous steps to become law throughout the 20th century.

In 1894, President Grover Cleveland directed state troops to break a strike of mail workers in Chicago. He was quoted as saying, "If it takes the entire Army and Navy of the United States to deliver a postcard in Chicago, that card will be delivered."

Seven casualties resulted from the ensuing riots. By the end of the early 1900's child labor laws were being implemented barring children from being employed in mines, factories, and other dangerous production facilities.

In 1970, postal workers staged a massive strike wherein 210,000 workers brought New York, Detroit, and Philadelphia to a stand-still. Then-president Nixon was forced to declare a state of emergency. The balance between 'management' and workers remains a fundamental dynamic in political life today.

Where reasonable and appropriate lines can be drawn in the workplace, when it comes to paid time off, employee benefits, maternity leave, and other crucial questions remain unanswered. Yet one fact may remain ubiquitous, nobody likes having a case of the Mondays.



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