by Pat White
With Labor Day coming up on September 5—the first Monday of the month—many of us will be taking advantage of the impending three day weekend. Whether you’re using the chance to take one last weekend getaway to the beach before the end of summer, hosting a backyard party with your friends and family, or heading out to the mall to take advantage of Labor Day sales, we all have one thing in common—we’re grateful to have a little extra time for ourselves.
However you choose to spend your Labor Day, be sure to take a few moments to remember the meaning behind the holiday. We wouldn’t have the wages, benefits or time off that we enjoy today without the activism of our ancestors.
Here are five things you may not know about Labor Day to better educate you on the origins of the holiday.
- The idea for Labor Day is believed to have begun in Canada in 1872—22 years before it became a national holiday in the United States! In a show of solidarity for striking workers, 1,500 citizens from Hamilton, Ontario demonstrated in the streets. Their aim? A nine hour work day.
- Even though Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, it was first celebrated in New York City by the Central Labor Union in 1882. Over the following 12 years, 23 states marked their own celebration before the Federal government opted to make it a universally recognized holiday.
- Congress voted unanimously to make Labor Day a national holiday in 1894, just six days after the conclusion of the Pullman Strike. During the strike, 125,000 railroad workers walked off the job to protest wage cuts without a corresponding decrease in rent and utility costs in their company-owned housing. During the strike 30 workers were killed, 57 were wounded and property damage exceeded $80 million.
- The average wage for a laborer during the 1890’s was 15 cents per hour. A skilled worker, such as a carpenter, would still expect to bring home an average of only 32 cents per hour.
- President Cleveland, though he supported the establishment of the Labor Day holiday, was fearful that empowering workers would give rise to strikes, riots and strengthen socialist and anarchist movements.
- The first minimum wage law was passed in New Zealand the same year that Labor Day was established as a national holiday.
Ultimately, we should not celebrate Labor Day without forgetting the activism and difficult conditions that workers endured in our recent past. Because those individuals were willing to stand up and fight for their rights, we now enjoy the fruits of rising wages, shorter work hours and better benefits.
All offices of The Milford Bank offices will be closed in observance of Memorial Day. Be sure to download our mobile application though, and you’ll be able to conduct your banking conveniently without having to stop at one of our locations. You can download the application here.