As we kiss goodbye the final weekend of summer, we’re looking back on how this weekend was made possible. If not for the very first Labor Day march, we may not have an 8 hour work day and may still be subjected to poor and unsafe working conditions. Before you check out for the weekend, check out these 5 Labor Day facts you probably didn’t know
1) The First Labor Day Parade was actually a strike
On Sept. 5, 1882, tens of thousands of union laborers marched from New York City Hall to Union Square to protest deplorable working conditions amid the Industrial Revolution. Protestors included children as young as 5 years old. Protesters were marching for awareness and change of unsafe factories, farms, mills and mines where they were forced to work 12 hours or more per day, seven days a week, often without breaks, fresh air or even clean water. Many workers risked their jobs and livelihoods in order to march.
2) The March Included War on Police Brutality
In early May 1886, a labor protest rally in Chicago turned into what’s now known as the Haymarket Riot. Police fired into a crowd killing at least 2 protesters and injuring at least 6. The following evening the protests continued peacefully until a protestors, who is still unidentified, threw a bomb at police killing 7 police officers and 4 protestors. Gunfire between police and protesters broke out, wounding 60 cops and even more civilians. The outrage and unrest led to convictions of eight alleged anarchists, with four being hanged. Three surviving defendants were later pardoned.Gunfire between police and protesters broke out, wounding 60 cops and even more civilians. The outrage and unrest led to convictions of eight alleged anarchists, with four being hanged. Three surviving defendants were later pardoned.
3) Labor Day was Finally Recognized as a Holiday in 1894
Labor Day finally became a federally recognized holiday in 1894. Prior to 1894, New York City recognized the holiday in 1882. In 1887, Oregon passed a law recognizing Labor Day, on February 21, 1887. During 1887, four more states – Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York – passed laws creating a Labor Day holiday. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 more states had adopted the holiday, and on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.
4) Railroad workers didn’t get a standard eight-hour workday until 1916.
Labor Day didn’t apply to all industries. Railroad workers were still subjected to poor working conditions until 1916. In 1916, 400,000 rail-workers in four different unions threatened to strike unless the rule was implemented. Fearful of the repercussions of a rail strike, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Adamson Act, making an eight-hour workday the legal standard.
5) Still, some workers had to wait until 1938
The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938. The new law expand the standardized eight-hour workday to industries beyond railroads. It also established minimum wage, overtime pay and child labor laws.