Long weekend has long history
By Lance Cpl. R. Drew Hendricks
| | August 30, 2006
U.S. MARINE CORPS FORCES, PACIFIC, CAMP H. M. SMITH, Hawaii– --
Every year on the first Monday of September workers around the country enjoy an extra-long weekend. The holiday is Labor Day and for some that’s all that is known about it.
Labor Day is a simple and straight-forward holiday celebrating the American worker.
The holiday started during an era when the laborers were the heroes that drove this country onward, much as they continue to do today.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The second Labor Day holiday was held just a year later, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.
It is still disputed as to who started the holiday, but two names are mentioned.
Some say it was Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor who first suggested a day to honor the American Laborer, according to the DOL.
He said we should honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."
Others say it was Matthew Maguire, a machinist, who founded the holiday. Most research seems to support Matthew Maguire with the proposal of the holiday in 1882 while he served as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York, according to the World Book Encyclopedia.
Regardless who proposed the holiday, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. That law was signed by President Grover Cleveland, June 28, 1894.
While the holiday is mostly celebrated with backyard barbeques or short family vacations, some places such as New York still adhere to the traditional celebrations of parades and festivals.
The first Labor Day parades demonstrated to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community.
They were usually 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, according to the DOL.
While Labor Day is not celebrated with such grandeur in most areas, the people it recognizes still find ways to use their well deserved long weekend.
"Labor Day differs in every essential way from the other holidays of the year in any country," said Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor. "All other holidays are in a more or less degree connected with conflicts and battles of man's prowess over man, of strife and discord for greed and power, of glories achieved by one nation over another. Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."
It is dedicated to those who continue to complete those every day tasks that, no matter how much they go unnoticed, are absolutely essential to the success of the nation and its people.