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Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day!

Happy Labor Day to all my American readers! For a lot of people, Labor Day means two things: a day off and the end of summer. However, Labor Day is a day set aside to pay tribute to working men and women and acknowledges the value and dignity of work and its role in American life.

Here are ten interesting facts that you might not know about regarding Labor Day:

1. Labor Day originates from our neighbors to the north

Most Americans consider Labor Day a uniquely American experience, but in all reality, Labor Day has it’s origins in Canada. Stemming from 1870’s labor disputes in Toronto, in 1872 a parade was held in support of a strike against the 58 hour workweek. As a result, 24 union leaders who were responsible for organizing the event were arrested under anti-union laws.

2. First US Labor Day observance was in the form of a parade

The first US observance of Labor Day came in the form of a parade. Sponsored by the Central Labor Union, On September 5th, 1882 ten thousand workers paraded through New York City. This is commonly considered the first observance of Labor Day in America.

3. The 12 hour work day norm

What’s outrageous enough to spur ten thousand people to parade through NYC? A 12 hour workweek! In the late 19th century, the average working day consisted of 12 hours. Held on a Tuesday, the first Labor Day rally was held in order to gain support for the 8 hour workday.

4. Oregon first to declare Labor Day an official holiday

In February of 1887, the great state of Oregon was the first in the Union to pass law making Labor Day and officially recognized holiday.

5. Grover Cleveland makes Labor Day a national holiday

Making Labor Day an official national holiday as part of his political campaign, in 1894, President Grover Cleveland made good on his promise, and signed a law making Labor Day an officially recognized US holiday.

6. Not just in the US

Although Labor Day hails from Canada and the US, a large number of industrialized nations around the world celebrate Labor Day as a time to respect and reflect upon workers around the world. While not all celebrate it at the beginning of summer, the concept is similar, and is sometimes celebrated in combination of May Day.

7. First Waffle House opens on Labor Day

In 1955, in Avondale Estates, Georgia, the very first Waffle House opened it’s doors to the public. 25 states and 50 years later, Waffle House now counts over 1500 establishments. Yay waffles!

8. The White border

Labor Day has been traditionally the unofficial “pack up the whites” border, and was often considered a fashion faux pas, if worn post-Labor Day. This tradition has been steadily decreasing over the past decade(s), and is often now just remembered as the “something that once was.”

9. 150 million working Americans

As of 2008, there were 154.4 million people over the age of 16 in the US with jobs. Around ¾ of these workers receive paid vacation time, but an extra day off is certainly nothing to sneeze at.

10. Unofficial NFL season kickoff

99.44 percent of the time, the NFL plays it’s first official season game the Thursday after Labor Day.

So there you have it. Perhaps a few things you already knew about Labor Day, but hopefully a few that you didn’t.

We celebrate Labor Day because we are all in this world of work together. Let’s enjoy the fruits of our labor and the solidarity of workers, the work we do, and the nation and economy we and our parents and their parents have built. Happy Labor Day!

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