The U.S. Department of Labor describes Labor Day this way: â€œIt is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.â€
On Sept. 5, 1882, when about 20,000 working people marched in New York City to demand an eight-hour workday and other labor law reforms. In a parade up Broadway, sponsored by New Yorkâ€™s Central Labor Union, they carried banners reading, â€œLabor Creates All Wealthâ€ and â€œEight Hours for Work, Eight Hours for Rest, Eight Hours for Recreation.â€ About a quarter million New Yorkers turned out to watch.
After the first Labor Day in New York City, celebrations began to spread to other states as workers fought to win workplace rights and better working conditions and wages at a time when they had little power. In 1893, New York City workers took an unpaid day off and marched around Union Square in support of a national Labor Day. The following year, 12,000 federal troops were called into Pullman, Ill., to break up a huge strike against the Pullman railway company and two workers were shot and killed by U.S. deputy marshals. In what most historians call an election year attempt to appease workers after the federal crackdown on the Pullman strike, shortly after the strike was broken, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation making the first Monday in September Labor Day and a federal holiday. Cleveland lost the election.
May Day. In 1889, a workersâ€™ congress in Paris voted to support the U.S. labor movementâ€™s demand for an eight-hour workday. It chose May 1, 1890, as a day of demonstrations in favor of the eight-hour day. Afterward, May 1 became a holiday called Labor Day in many nations. It resembles the September holiday in the United States.
From the AFL-CIO Website