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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 5:42 am
 


Title: Labor Day's surprisingly radical origins
Category: History
Posted By: BeaverFever
Date: 2020-09-07 05:39:08
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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 5:42 am
 


$1:
Labor Day's surprisingly radical origins

Celebrated each year on the first Monday in September, this holiday was born amid violence and unrest over oppressive working conditions.

September 4, 2020

For many, Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer and an opportunity to host a socially-distanced barbecue. But this national holiday—celebrated every year in the United States and Canada on the first Monday in September—has revolutionary origins.

Originally commemorated through parades, political speeches, and labor union activities, Labor Day was born amid rising unrest over oppressive working conditions—and a massive strike that threatened to turn violent.

Origins of Labor Day


By the late 19th century, the Industrial Revolution had made working life miserable for people around the world. In many places, workers toiled for at least 12 hours a day six days a week in mines, factories, railroads, and mills. Children were especially exploited as cheap laborers who were less likely to strike. Sweatshops locked workers in small, crowded spaces, and punished them for talking or singing as they worked.

Top:
Young boys work in a glassworks factory in Indiana in the middle of an August night in 1908. At the time, many employers relied on child labor—and subjected them to the same long hours as other workers.
Bottom: A group of sweatshop workers finish up a week's work in New York City on February 21, 1908. Sweatshops were notorious for their unhealthy and unsafe working conditions.

Photograph by National Child Labor Committee collection, Library of Congress

Outrage at these conditions galvanized the burgeoning labor movement, which organized strikes and rallies in the 1860s and 1870s. In addition to shorter workdays and safer conditions, workers fought for recognition of their contributions.

In the wake of a printers strike in April 1872—which saw 10,000 people march through the streets of Toronto to appeal for a shorter work week—Canadian cities began to host annual parades in honor of workers. Ten years later, the U.S. followed suit. On September 5, 1882, New York City union leaders organized what is now considered the nation’s first Labor Day parade. (See National Geographic's archival images of workers around the world.)

Ten thousand workers marched along city streets in an event culminating in a picnic, speeches, fireworks, and dancing. Organizers proclaimed the day “a general holiday for the workingmen of this city.” They continued to host the parade in the years after, and in 1884 the event was fixed on the first Monday in September.

A rival emerges

New York’s Labor Day parade wasn’t an official holiday—participants took unpaid leave—but the movement to declare it one had officially begun. In 1887, Oregon became the first state to designate a Labor Day holiday, followed later that year by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Yet the first Monday in September wasn’t the only option for celebrating workers’ rights. An alternative had emerged in 1886: May Day.

This image—published in Harper's Weekly on May 15, 1886—depicts the events of the
… Haymarket Riot in Chicago when a bomb was detonated as police officers attempted to disperse a labor protest. The events of the day are now commemorated each year on May 1. Photograph by Library of Congress

This holiday—now observed in countries across the world, where it is also called International Workers’ Day—actually originated in the U.S. On May 1, 1886, in what came to be known as the Haymarket Riot, workers flooded Chicago streets to demand an eight-hour workday. The demonstrations lasted for days, punctuated by scuffles between workers and police. On May 4, after police ordered a crowd to disperse, a bomb detonated. Seven police officers and up to eight civilians were killed. The perpetrator was never identified.

In 1889, an international gathering of socialists in Paris officially declared May Day a holiday honoring workers’ rights. Although it gained steam internationally—and was backed by some U.S. labor unions—historian Charles Tilly writes that U.S. president Grover Cleveland feared May Day “would become a memorial to the Haymarket radicals.” He pressed state legislatures to select the September date instead. By 1894, about half of U.S. states had adopted Labor Day.

Becoming a national holiday

It would take another clash in the American Midwest to make Labor Day a federal holiday. On May 11, 1894, workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company, a railroad car manufacturer near Chicago, went on strike to protest their low wages and 16-hour workdays. On June 22, members of the powerful American Railway Union (ARU) joined their struggle by refusing to move Pullman’s cars from one train to another, thus crippling rail traffic across the country. (Here's the history of the raised fist, a global symbol of fighting oppression.)

In Washington, D.C., politicians sought to placate the labor movement. At the time, federal legislation to designate Labor Day a public holiday had been languishing in Congress for 10 months after U.S. Senator James Kyle, a Populist from South Dakota, had introduced it in August 1893. To appease the strikers and their supporters, the Senate quickly passed the bill on June 22—the same day the ARU joined the Pullman strike. The bill passed the House four days later and President Cleveland signed it into law on June 28, 1894.

Although the holiday is often described as a conciliatory gesture at a time of crisis, Cleveland was hardly an ally to the Pullman strikers. On July 3, just days after signing the bill, he ordered federal troops to Chicago to end the boycott. Furious strikers began to riot and, on July 7, national guardsmen fired into a mob and killed as many as 30 people.

Labor Day’s legacy

In spite of its bloody aftermath, the creation of a Labor Day holiday made waves. In Canada, Prime Minister John Thompson also faced mounting pressure from the labor movement. On July 23, 1894—less than a month after the U.S. bill had passed—Thompson followed Cleveland’s lead in designating the first Monday in September an official holiday for workers.

But the holiday did not improve conditions for the people it sought to honor, and was little more than lip service from politicians. As the U.S. House Committee on Labor said in its 1894 report on the legislation: “So long as the laboring man can feel that he holds an honorable as well as a useful place in the body politic, so long will he be a loyal and faithful citizen.” It would take another 44 years for the U.S. to set a minimum wage, mandate a shorter workweek, and limit child labor with the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act.

Whatever the intentions, the creation of a holiday devoted solely to workers was nonetheless an important achievement for the labor movement. “Labor Day marks a new epoch in the annals of human history,” wrote Samuel Gompers, president of the American Federation of Labor, in the New York Times in 1910. “Among all the festive days of the year...there is not one which stands so conspicuously for social advancement of the common people as the first Monday in September.”


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 11:56 am
 


History is "news". So much now many would say it's fake news.
Communist bastards taking away my right to work 12 hours at straight time today! Gotta pay them $30 a month and suffer weekends and paid holidays.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 5:31 pm
 


Not directly related to Labour Day but Beaver's post about worker's struggles reminded me of a book I read (and still have) by Harold Robbins called 'Memories of Another Day' about a fellow that rose to become a leader in labour organization and worker's rights. I'm sure someone on this forum has read it.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 5:52 pm
 


I don't understand how they determine the pecking order of paid holidays. Everyone gets paid for labor day. Fine I have no problem with that. I do have a problem not getting paid for veterans day. The only job that gave me the day off with pay for veterans day was the military. Everyone loves waving their flags, tying their yellow ribbons, and saying that they support the troops, yet 99% of employers do not give even veterans the day off with pay. That makes zero sense seeing as I do get paid for Columbus day. Columbus is about as popular as covid 19 these days. Go figure!


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 7:22 pm
 


I think the reason for that is some people are afraid it will just be another day off where people go skiing or what have you. The thought is schools and workplaces typically have a moment of silence or some other organized activity to observe the occasion that would otherwise be ignored.

Our equivalent of veterans day is Remembrance Day. It is a paid holiday in Alberta (if it falls on a workday) but not in most other provinces including my province of Ontario. That said my current employer is a financial institution and so we get the day off with pay as a bankers holiday, including a Monday off if it happens to fall on a weekend (unlike Alberta).

My observation at my current employer and also from a couple of weeks I spent in the Alberta offices of my previous employer that included Remembrance Day is that people simply treat it as a day off or long weekend for fun, relaxation, chores and errands and spend very little time reflecting on veterans Or anything else.


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PostPosted: Mon Sep 07, 2020 7:39 pm
 


There are 9 statutory holidays in Canada. They changed things up in Québec but there are still 9. If they added veteran's day as a holiday, they'd probably take an existing holiday off the books to stay at 9. Sure, it would be nice to have have more, but businesses don't like paying employees when they're not working.

Of course, individual business can have more. I had 13 in Coop financial institutions.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 5:12 am
 


We have 10 in Ontario since they brought in the February “Family Day” holiday a few years back. This also includes the August 1 civic holiday which most employers around the GTA offer as a paid day but is not mandatory


We definitely need a stat holiday between thanksgiving and xmas. That can be a long slog. There should be one every 30-35 days, preferably on a long weekend instead of randomly in the middle of the week


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 5:30 am
 


BeaverFever BeaverFever:
We have 10 in Ontario since they brought in the February “Family Day” holiday a few years back. This also includes the August 1 civic holiday which most employers around the GTA offer as a paid day but is not mandatory.


The Civic Holiday is not a statutory holiday. Therefore, we have nine, not ten.

-J.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 5:36 am
 


CDN_PATRIOT CDN_PATRIOT:
BeaverFever BeaverFever:
We have 10 in Ontario since they brought in the February “Family Day” holiday a few years back. This also includes the August 1 civic holiday which most employers around the GTA offer as a paid day but is not mandatory.


The Civic Holiday is not a statutory holiday. Therefore, we have nine, not ten.

-J.


As I said, it’s not mandatory but in the GTA at least most employers offer it


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 7:29 am
 


BeaverFever BeaverFever:
We have 10 in Ontario since they brought in the February “Family Day” holiday a few years back.


We've had Family Day in Alberta for more than 20 years. Good you guys decided to catch up!

Remembrance Day has also been a Stat since forever.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 8:16 am
 


DrCaleb DrCaleb:
BeaverFever BeaverFever:
We have 10 in Ontario since they brought in the February “Family Day” holiday a few years back.


We've had Family Day in Alberta for more than 20 years. Good you guys decided to catch up!

Remembrance Day has also been a Stat since forever.


We got Family Day in 2008, another McGuinty legacy. I remember that Alberta and a few other provinces already had it at the time.


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 9:06 am
 


I can't believe that Nov 11 isn't a stat in Ontario. I find that shameful.
I also find the May holiday weird. It should be renamed. Honouring Queen Victoria in 2020?


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 9:19 am
 


herbie herbie:
It should be renamed. Honouring Queen Victoria in 2020?


So a civil war would have been the preferred method of forming Canada? [huh]


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PostPosted: Tue Sep 08, 2020 12:41 pm
 


BeaverFever BeaverFever:
Our equivalent of veterans day is Remembrance Day. It is a paid holiday in Alberta (if it falls on a workday) but not in most other provinces including my province of Ontario. That said my current employer is a financial institution and so we get the day off with pay as a bankers holiday, including a Monday off if it happens to fall on a weekend (unlike Alberta).

My observation at my current employer and also from a couple of weeks I spent in the Alberta offices of my previous employer that included Remembrance Day is that people simply treat it as a day off or long weekend for fun, relaxation, chores and errands and spend very little time reflecting on veterans Or anything else.


Remembrance Day is a stat holiday everywhere except Manitoba, Ontario and Quebec.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Remembrance_Day#Canada

While I can't speak for other Albertans, Remembrance Day ceremonies, both inside and out, are usually quite well attended. The only 'problem' I see is that ceremonies end shortly after 11 a.m., so a fair number of people spend the end afternoon goofing off.


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