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home : news : news October 19, 2021

9/6/2021 3:08:00 AM
It's Labor Day

Wayne Howard

Monday (Sept. 6th) is Labor Day.  Govt. offices--city, county, state and federal--will have the day off.  Some offices will also observe the holiday as will schools.  Except for those who are usually closed on Monday, most restaurants will be open as usual, and so will retail stores.  Most factories will also work as usual.  It's not a holiday for everyone.

The Labor Day holiday has been around since the late 19th Century.  The first Labor Day parade was held in New York City on September 5, 1882.  Oregon became the first state to observe a Labor Day holiday.  22 other states followed suit, but it didn't become a national holiday until 1894--and then it was the result of a strike that crippled the economy and resulted in bloodshed.

Labor disputes and strikes became commonplace during much of the 1880s as workers protested long hours and often dangerous working conditions.  In 1893, during an economic recession, Pullman laid off hundreds of employees and cut wages for remaining workers at its Chicago railroad sleeping car company. Angry workers walked out in May 1894. Another union joined in the protest by asking its members to boycott railroads using Pullman cars. The strike halted rail traffic between Chicago, other midwestern locations in the nation's agricultural region, and the West Coast. In July of that year, protestors burned multiple railroad cars. Since Chicago with its stockyards and as a clearinghouse for other agricultural products was important to the entire national economy, federal troops and National Guardsmen were called in to put down the strike, killing 30 people and wounding many others.

Congress passed legislation in June 1894 making the first Monday in September a federal legal holiday to recognize and celebrate labor. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law June 28, 1894, a few days before he sent troops to Chicago.

Federal troops were recalled from Chicago on July 20, and the Pullman strike was declared over in early August. That September, the nation observed its first national Labor Day holiday.

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