The True Meaning of Labor Day: Embrace Your Strength

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In the United States, there are 12 permanent federal holidays. One of which is Labor Day. Labor Day is celebrated this year on September 6. It’s time to spend with your family and friends, enjoying the last of the summer sun. But often, we forget the true meaning of Labor Day. It’s a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.

Let’s try to remember the true meaning of Labor Day this year, by embracing our strengths and fostering prosperity in our lives. This article will help to give you some background on the holiday, and how you can use it to improve your health and happiness as we move into the final quarter of the year.

Happy Labor Day sign on U.S. flag

What is Labor Day?

Labor Day happens on the first Monday in September, and is a time carved out by the government to honor workers and recognize their contributions to society. It’s a holiday celebrated by the United States and Canada, but many other countries have national holidays with similar sentiments happening at other times throughout the year.

Who created Labor Day?

It is thought that Peter J. McGuire, a union leader and laborer, came up with the idea of Labor Day in 1882. That year, he approached the Central Labor Union of New York to request a day to celebrate the many thousands of American laborers that make up the workforce. That September 5, an estimated 10,000 workers held a parade in New York City. And so Labor Day as we know it was created.

But it wasn’t immediately set in stone. In fact, it took many years for the government to recognize it as a federal holiday. In 1887, Oregon became the first state to grant legal status to the holiday, with New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey following suit.

How is Labor Day celebrated?

Nowadays, Labor Day is used as an end-of-summer celebration. The days start to get shorter and the feel of fall is spreading more by the day. So Labor Day weekend is used as a final hurrah to enjoy time with friends and family. A few common ways to spend Labor Day include:

Friends having a backyard bbq
  • Having a barbeque with friends and family
  • Going to a local parade
  • Spending some much needed time relaxing off work
  • Drinking and partying
  • Attending a fireworks display
  • Having a picnic in a local park

But none of these popular Labor Day activities pay homage to the true meaning of the holiday.

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What is the meaning of Labor Day?

If you ask someone to give you the meaning of Labor Day, you might be met with quite a few ‘umms’ and ‘ahhs’. That’s because unfortunately, the true meaning of Labor Day is all too often forgotten. So, here’s a quick recap.

The late 1880s was the height of the Industrial Revolution. For the average American, work days were 12-hours long and seven days a week. Despite these long working hours, pay was minimal. To have shelter, food, and other basic necessities, these working hours were a necessity to make enough money to live. As a result of this, children as young as five were recorded to have worked in mills, factories and mines across the country.

The working conditions during the Industrial Revolution were also astounding. Workers often faced extremely dangerous conditions; like having zero access to fresh air, unsanitary facilities, and limited breaks to eat or drink.

As you may have guessed, these conditions were not sustainable. Many Americans were at their wits end, wondering how they could change the nature of their work without sacrificing their income. This instigated the creation of labor unions.

As defined by the Utility Workers Union of America, “A labor union is an organization that acts as an intermediary between its members and the business that employs them. The main purpose of labor unions is to give workers the power to negotiate for more favorable working conditions and other benefits through collective bargaining.”

In short: a labor union is a voice for the people. In the Industrial Revolution, labor unions were powerful. They organized strikes to protest their unsafe and unfair working conditions, which compelled their employers to renegotiate hours and compensation.

When Congress legalized the Labor Day holiday in 1894, 12 years after the first parade, it was considered a major victory for Americans. It was the proof they needed that the government truly cared about their health and happiness, and finally, they would be able to enjoy their working life more.

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Why is it important to remember the true meaning of Labor Day?

The labor unions were made up of strong-willed Americans who wanted freedom - is that not the true essence of America? In our eyes, it most definitely is. For that reason, it’s vital we remember the true meaning of Labor Day this year and for the years to come.

This Labor Day weekend, take some time to reflect on your own life. Your own strength and endurance. Your ability to work, and make a living for yourself in a free country. Your potential and power; the ability you have to create the life you want, on your own terms. America is the land of the free and home of the brave. Labor Day is a holiday that signifies this in all its glory.

Proud working man standing in front of flag

So, strike up a conversation with a friend or family member this Labor Day, and ask them if they’re aware of the history of the holiday. Whether they are or aren’t, open up a discussion about strength and independence, and how the history of Labor Day is an inspiring story and lesson for all.

We wish you well on this national holiday and all of those to come. For the final quarter of the year, use this time to work on your strength and independence. Work hard and enjoy everything that being an American has to offer.

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