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Labor Day in America

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Sunday, September 5, 2010

Labor Day in America

Happy Labor Day friends!


After all these years of celebrating Labor Day, taking advantage of the day off granted to most (but not all) Americans, I finally took the time to learn about this holiday's origins. I found this from the ever-faithful (cough cough) Wikipedia and the perhaps-more-accurate U.S. Department of Labor website.

The very first Labor Day in America was celebrated in September 1882 in New York City. At the time it wasn't a government holiday, but rather a celebration of labor set up by the Central Labor Union of New York.

By 1885, similar celebrations were held in early September in cities throughout the country.

Dave will be pleased to know that Labor Day as a federal holiday has it origins in the railroad industry. In 1894, federal troops were called to action to help suppress violence during a Pullman Palace Car strike in Chicago. But this was more than just the workers on the train cars not reporting for duty.

The American Railway Union went so far as to refuse to run trains that had any Pullman cars, switch Pullman cars and there were even some violent events that resulted in hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of damage to trains (inflated to over $8M in 2010 dollars).

President Grover Cleveland sent federal marshalls and 12,000 US Army troops to stop the strike after U.S. Mail service started experiencing interruptions. 12 strikers were killed, 57 were wounded.

In the aftermath, President Cleveland was quick to reconcile with the labor unions and very quickly proposed legislation declaring the first Tuesday of the month a federal holiday: Labor Day. The federal holiday was established a mere 6 days after the end of the Pullman Strike in July 1894.

Enjoy the holiday!

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