Remembering the Meaning of Labor Day

September 5 marks 136 years since the first Labor Day celebration in the United States, which featured a parade of over 10,000 people in New York City. Two years later, the Central Labor Union designated the first Monday of September as the recognized “workingmen’s holiday” and individual states began recognizing the holiday. Nationally, Labor Day was not recognized as a holiday until 1894 after the violent breakup of the Pullman Strike between the American Railway Union and Pullman Company, a railroad car company.


It can be hard to imagine working conditions that once included a 7-day work week, 12-hour days, and little to no time off, but this was the worker’s reality during the Industrial Revolution. Several important changes in labor laws and commonplace practices we expect and take for granted were regularly fought for by workers generations ago. These changes (and others throughout the years) include:


  • Overtime pay
  • A 40-hour work week and 8-hour work day
  • Weekends off
  • Child labor laws
  • Organized labor unions
    • Leading to more organized strikes
  • Ventilated, safe working conditions
  • Liveable wages


While workers continue to fight for more refined policies on some of these changes such as wages and overtime, it’s important to remember the state of American industry before workers and unions took matter into their own hands and fought for better conditions for workers around the country. Their example has sparked the recent fight for higher minimum wages, equal pay for equal work, health insurance coverage, child care support and much more.


We hope you and your company are able to take some time before and after Labor Day to thank workers for the contributions they have and will continue to make to America’s economy. From all of us at GES, have a relaxing and appreciative Labor Day.




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