What does Labor Day mean to you?
by Jack McNeely
Sep 01, 2013 | 729 views | 0 0 comments | 42 42 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack McNeely
Jack McNeely
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Labor Day is more than the official end of summer. It is more than the arrival of football, tailgate parties and pennant-chasing baseball.

This weekend we celebrate the workingman AND workingwoman. Here at your Daily Mountain Eagle everyone donned Alabama crimson or Auburn orange Friday and we had a good, old-fashioned cookout. It was my way of saying “Thank You” to a staff of well-intentioned newspaper professionals.

Labor Day falls on the first Monday in September. It is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

It is our holiday.

It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country, according to the U.S. Department of Labor.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on Sept. 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and 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 spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886.

From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on Feb. 21, 1887. During the year four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment.

By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania had followed suit.

By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged.

Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Resent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

Now you know why you have a three-day weekend. Enjoy it; you’ve earned it.

Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.