The Meaning of Labor Day
The agitation in New York City was soon followed by labor unions in other states, which staged campaigns in their state legislatures for the establishment of Labor Day as a legal holiday. Their earliest victories were in Oregon and Colorado, where Labor Day was declared to be a state holiday in February and March 1887, respectively. The next year the American Federation of Labor passed a resolution for the adoption of a Labor Day at its St. Louis, Missouri, convention. Thirty states had followed the lead of Oregon and Colorado by the time the first Monday in September was made a national holiday by an act of Congress, with the bill signed into law by President Grover Cleveland on 28 June 1894. In the early twenty-first century, Labor Day parades, rallies, festivals, and speeches were still organized by labor unions across the country and often supported by political leaders. Because of the shrinking popular base of traditional labor unions, however, most Americans tended to regard the day merely as the finale of a long summer of fun in which hot dogs, barbecues, and picnics reigned.
Labor Day is observed annually in honor of working people on the first Monday in September in all the states and territories, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. The day was originally conceived in 1882 by Peter J. McGuire, the radical founder and warrior of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of New York. On 8 May, McGuire proposed to the New York City Central Labor Union that the first Monday in September, because it fell midway between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving Day, be set aside annually as a “labor day.”