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September 6, 2011

What Is Labor Day Really All About?

Filed under: General HR Buzz — Tags: 11:30 am

The first day of fall is still almost three weeks away, but I always think of Labor Day as the last day of summer.  Never mind the fact that once I was out of school, the summer never really began – I could never find an employer who would give me every day from Memorial Day through Labor Day as vacation!

Existences of a long vacation notwithstanding, most of us find a way to celebrate the long weekend.  Around my house, the Labor Day weekend is the last official time we gather our extended family for an outdoor barbecue.  If all I had to go by were the ads in my Sunday newspaper, I would be convinced that Labor Day (and every other holiday) was instituted by retailers trying to convince me that I need new furniture, a new car, new shoes for my kids (when I just bought some two weeks ago during the back to school sales!), and so on.

Have you ever really thought about the history of Labor Day?  For the longest time, I vaguely knew that the holiday was meant to celebrate the worker.  The first Labor Day was officially celebrated on September 5, 1882 with about 25,000 union workers and their families in Manhattan.  It was meant to celebrate the positive impact workers had on our nation. By 1894, Congress passed an act declaring the first Monday in September the Labor Day holiday, so that workers did not have to forfeit a day’s pay to demonstrate in the parades.

Most of us who work in the United States and other developed nations have no firsthand knowledge of worker abuse and the reasons that the Labor Day holiday was first enacted.  Take a few minutes before you catch up on all the emails you received over the holiday weekend and check out some of these links for some interesting Labor Day information.

Labor Day Salute to the Impact Makers – SHRM – Celebrating HR professionals’ contribution to the improvement of the lives of American workers.

U.S. Department of Labor – Labor Day 2011 – history, photos, videos of Labor Day and a message from U.S. Secretary of Labor, Hilda Solis.

Happy Labor Day!


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