Labor Day

 Labor Day Parades


Welcome to Labor Day Pavilion  - Pleasure All Yours

Origin of Labor Day

Peter J. McGuire, born 1852,  a son of Irish immigrant, a newspaper boy in New York City, had eye-witnessed the long working hours and poor living conditions of the immigrants and the labor strikes that took place to protest; which stirred his interest in labor union activities. In 1872, Peter joined a 100,000 workers strike demanding shorter working hours and was successful.

In 1881, Peter moved to St. Louis, Missouri, where he began to organize carpenters. He traveled up and down the coast giving speeches and organized carpenters in Chicago. The national union of carpenters was founded in Chicago and Peter became the Secretary of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America. The spirit of Peter McGuire was touching workers across the nation.

On September 5, 1882, the first Labor Day parade was held in New York City. Workers, numbering more than twenty thousand, marched up Broadway, in a show of solidarity. The workers carried banners demanding an eight hour workday and reminding the city that labor creates wealth. Without the workers, factory and business owners could not survive.

In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed (by Peter J. McGuire and/or Mathew Maguire,  secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., who proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.) The Central Labor Union urged other workers groups in cities across the nation to follow the example of workers in New York City. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations and the, “workingmen's holiday” began. In 1885, Labor Day was being celebrated in many industrial centers across the United States.

Government recognition of the labor day movement came about through municipal ordinances. By 1894, a total of 23 states joined in the adoption of the holiday to honor workers.

Support of a national holiday for labor workers 

began in 1892 when union workers in New York City took an unpaid day off and marched around Union Square in support of the holiday, but the formal recognition of the Labor Day has another story.

In 1883, Eugene V. Debs leader of American Railroad Union supported a strike at the Pullman Company (founded in 1880), a manufacture of railroad sleeping cars. President Grover Cleveland faced the railroad executives and the disrupted mail trains, declared the strike a crime and squashed it with Federal Army. However, both houses of US congress rushed through a bill to appease the labor which arrived at President Cleveland's desk six days after the Federal troops had broken the Pullman strike. 

In 1884, an election year, President Cleveland recognized the chance at conciliation, but he did not win the reelection. On June 28, 1894, the Congress passed the act declaring First Monday of September as Labor Day Holiday.

What Labor Day means could be viewed from a speech in 1898 by  Samuel Gompers, head of the American Federation of Labor, "the day for which the toilers in past centuries looked forward, when their rights and their wrongs would be discussed...that the workers of our day may not only lay down their tools of labor for a holiday, but upon which they may touch shoulders in marching phalanx and feel the stronger for it." To this day, marches on Labor Day are conducted in almost every town and city in the US. 

Labor Day is the first Monday of September, marking the end of  summer and making the long weekend a well celebrated holiday with parades, marching bands, BBQ picnics and of course the Big Labor Day Sale.  

Author: IFC.

Author's Comments:

The history and origin of Labor Day and who should be credited as the founder were certainly not free of controversy. This topic is an excellent assignment for students to do some research since even our Department of Labor is not taking a firm position on its own document - The History of Labor Day.




Immigration Issue in Our Country

In view of the controversial issue - immigration reform bill - presently debated in Congress at this moment, it may be educational to reflect on the early day labor movement propelled by immigrants as well as to review the history of immigrants in our country. 

In the nineteen century, there was hardly any global competition and the US was in need of immigrants in almost every category (jokingly people would say, we even needed drunks and prostitutes who are not allowed to enter of course). The major source of immigrants started mainly from western Europe but shifted to southern and eastern Europe by the middle of the 19th century. The immigrants from Asia were a minority and was severely discriminated. In 1882, Congress passed the first immigration statute, barring Chinese immigrants. In the 1920's, quotas designed to maintain US's original ethnic and racial immigration origins became the basis of US immigration laws. The quota concept was upheld for nearly half of the twentieth century and was not abolished till the mid 1960's. After the WW II, Germany, divided due to her defeat in the war, had been a major source of immigrants. The number of Asian immigrants increased following WW II, Korean War and Viet Nam War as propelled by our ideological values of capitalism and democracy (and anti-communism)

The rising number of immigrants in the second half of twentieth century simply was a result of the need for workers in the post-war eras. American employers were always eager to hire low cost employees, however, the spectrum of immigrant skills gradually shifted from labor to highly educated and skilled immigrants in the late twentieth century. The population of Asian immigrants increased considerably in the second half of twentieth century with highly skilled immigrants increasing in number with each decade. The actual numbers admitted to this country continued to favor white Europeans and their descendants even after the abolishment of the quota system. However, the social discrimination against Asian immigrants gradually lessened a little as a result of rising economical value of the new Asian immigrants.

Capitalism's demand for cheap labor is the main driving force for immigrants coming to the US. This issue is clearly manifested by the immigrants from Mexico and Central America. According to a report from PEW Hispanic Center, the economic "pull" from the U.S. is far more powerful than the "push" factor in Mexico in accounting for the immigrants from Mexico, especially since the adoption of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1995. This "pull" began with the U.S. conquest of Mexico in the mid-19th century and has continued up to now. The shortage of labor during WW I created the first massive pull until the great depression which produced a massive "repatriation", then the pull during WW II created another massive immigration from Mexico and Central America only followed by a massive "repatriation" in post-Korean War period. The recent "pull" originated from the Civil Rights Movement curtailing exploitation of native minorities and women especially in the agricultural industry; the pull persisted till the recent NAFTA agreement which produced another increase peaked at year 2000. Although the dotcom melt-down and recession in the dawn of twenty first century had reduced the immigration from Mexico and Central America, the immigration issue concerning the Hispanic and immigrants in general had become a controversial issue due to a few troubling factors.    

The first factor is the increase in the ratio of unauthorized migrants as compared to legal permanent residents (i.e. legal immigrants) over the past half century.  The PEW data has shown  that the ratio has risen from a low of 13 percent in the decade of the 60s up to 35 percent during the 70s and 80s and to 40 percent over the recent decade with most increase attributed to Mexican and Central American migrants.

The second factor is the drug trafficking issue which has its roots in Central America. The drug abuse problem is a serious negative force damaging the economy in this country. It is understandable tougher laws are desired to deal with immigrants if they were involved in dealing drugs.

The third factor is the human smuggling across the vast border between US and Mexico. Smuggling not only contributes to the rise of unauthorized migrants but also breaks a number of laws which cause a huge economical drain in enforcing them. Following the 2001 terrorists' attack in US territory, it is logical to demand a tighter control of entries of aliens to this country out of concern of national security.

US is a free and democratic country. We place human, civil and individual rights with high value. Any tightening of immigration laws would certainly touch upon those values. Hence, the immigration reform bill has become a highly controversial subject. The purpose of this writing is to urge every one to take a historical view of immigration, draw some lessons from past mistakes and recognize that there is no absolute nor complete freedom in any society. We have to make compromises to arrive at reasonable laws that can be implemented.



Interesting Labor Day Posters

Interesting Labor Day Notice

Labor Day Parade

Labor Day Sports

Selections from left to right and top to bottom: A typical local poster celebrating Labor Day (KAW Valley), A typical notice for no work on Labor Day (Winchester Star Paper), A Labor Day Parade in Buffalo, New York, 1900 (Americaslibrary) and A Soccer Cup celebrating Labor Day (Houston Labor Day Cup) 

Labor Day Quotes

God sells us all things at the price of labor.  ~Leonardo da Vinci, A Great Inventor

Work isn't to make money; you work to justify life.  ~Marc Chagall

God gives me work, till my life shall end; and life, till my work is done.
~Epitaph of Winifred Holtby

It is necessary and important to work hard for the fortune, glory or power one is seeking, but often, it is more important to take the time off to relax and enjoy leisure and ask what is your work really for. ~ Ifay Chang  at Intern Training

If all the cars in the United States were placed end to end, it would probably be Labor Day Weekend.  ~Doug Larson

No one can create anything especially wealth without work ~ unknown

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