This symbolic “End of Summer” is an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during a dismal time for American workers. As you reflect on your long weekend, barbecues, parties and parades; be thankful for the workers who organized to make working conditions safer and more comfortable.

  • In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to eke out a basic living.
  • Children as young as 5 or 6 worked in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages.
  • Workers faced unsafe working conditions with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.
  • Until Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, laborers who chose to participate in parades had to forfeit a day’s wages.
  • Labor unions, which had first appeared in the late 18th century, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.
  • More than a century later, the true founder of Labor Day has yet to be identified. Many credit Peter McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, while others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday.