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August 31, 2009

A Short History of Labor Day

Filed under: about holidays — Tags: , — ecards @ 4:52 pm

America has a long and sometimes rocky relationship with its workers.  From the labor union accomplishments of mandating a 40-hour work week and restricting child labor, to the bloody Boston Police Riots of 1919, we may not always see eye-to-eye with our labor representatives, but they are still undoubtedly an integral part of American history.  It should be no surprise, then, that America’s Labor Day holiday has become a deeply-symbolic part of Americana.

Celebrated on the first Monday of each September, Labor Day was first made a federal holiday in June of 1894, under less-than-festive conditions.  Two months earlier in Cleveland, Ohio, mounting unemployment rates and rampant local poverty led to the May Day Riots, a series of violent clashes between the public and city officials, over frustrations of the unemployed at the government’s ineffectual handling of economic conditions.  Congress made Labor Day a federal holiday to, in part, symbolically demonstrate their support of the average American worker.

As time has gone on, Labor Day has come to mainly represent the end of the summer season, with a glut of parades, festivals and outdoor barbecues.  The tradition of Labor Day parades owes its existence, though, to the original Labor Day in the 1880’s, when, holiday founders proposed, a street parade would show the public the power and unity of labor and trade organizations.  Today’s Labor Day parades are much more festive and informal in nature, but several American cities still feature labor unions prominently in their Labor Day parades.

Ironically, Labor Day in America has come to symbolize, for many, the opposite of work.  College Football usually begins right around Labor Day, and the National Football League usually plays the first game of the regular season in the week after Labor Day; American school children, meanwhile, typically see the Labor Day weekend as one last free hurrah before the school year begins again in earnest.

And while regular political demonstrations have typically been kept low-key on Labor Day, recent years have seen a return to the holiday’s more politically-charged roots.  Would-be politicians running for office use the day and its significance to draw attention either to their support or criticism of labor unions; and a new group of political protestors plan on throwing “tea parties” this Labor Day—protests to be held around the country, in opposition to perceived excesses in government overspending.

Labor Day in America is much like Labor Day itself: borne of a common and unified cause, but growing, over many years, into an occasion that symbolizes something different for everyone involved.  So whether it’s football and hamburgers, or parades and speeches, get out there and enjoy it! If all else fails borwse our wonderful free animated ecards

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