If you are curious about the origin of Labor Day, the national holiday for workers celebrated on the first Monday of September each year in America that will be celebrated September 2, 2013, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has a web page ‘The History of Labor Day’ that explains the founding of the holiday, which happens to include a dispute over who first proposed the day off for workers.
Labor Day “is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers” and “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” according to the DOL web page. After more than 20 states adopted a holiday in honor of workers during the late 1800s, Congress passed an act on June 28, 1894 making the first Monday in September of each year the legal holiday of Labor Day.
As for the founder of Labor Day, the DOL web page claims “there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers” more than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance. While some records show “Peter J. McGuire” was first to suggest a day to honor workers, many believe that “Matthew Maguire” founded the holiday. Recent research supports the belief that Matthew Maguire proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.
The DOL web page reports the first “Labor Day” holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City and the second was held a year later on September 5, 1883, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. When the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday in 1884, the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen's holiday” on that date. The idea quickly spread across the country.
The DOL website states its mission is “to foster, promote, and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers, and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.” For more information about the DOL, visit http://www.dol.gov/. The DOL web page ‘The History of Labor Day’ is available online at http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm.