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Our Labor Day Weekend Was Hard Fought and Won!


The History of Labor Day Celebrations

The very first Labor Day Parade took place in 1882.

Labor Day was first celebrated only in certain regions of the country. As the holiday grew more popular around the country, it was eventually declared a national holiday by President Grover Cleveland in 1894. At that time, as many as 30 states were already celebrating in some fashion. The holiday was immediately linked in the public's mind to the tragedy of The Pullman Strike of 1894, when 1,200 soldiers where sent in to break up striking railway workers. The ensuing violence caused the death of 30 striking workers. This event was largely seen as a moment of change and empathy for the labor movement.

The Pacific Northwest Labor History Association Fall 2020 Quarterly had this interesting fact about the timing of Cleveland's pushing of the bill, which was subsequently passed by 99 Senators.

"Why did President Grover Cleveland sign the federal legislation? The widely accepted view is that Cleveland hoped to win back Labor’s vote after federal troops crushed the 1894 Pullman Strike in early August. But the President signed legislation much earlier, on June 28th. The nationwide boycott against Pullman cars, called by Eugene Debs and the American Railway Union, had just begun two days earlier.”


This short video, “Why do Americans and Canadians celebrate Labor Day?" with Kenneth C. Davis details the early struggles of the labor movement and hits many of the historical high notes. 

It's interesting to hear the narrator say, “People worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week without fringe benefits like vacation, health care and pensions" and the top commentor says, “I know people doing that now.” It really makes you stop and think about the power of collective bargaining and being able to have a voice about our labor and desire to earn livable family wages.

Have a Happy Labor Day and we hope you enjoyed this look back!

Additional Links: 

National Museum of American History - The Making of Labor Day

IBEW Local 48 News
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