Labor Day: A Celebration of the Workforce

On the first Monday in the month of September, the United States celebrates Labor Day, a holiday created to recognize employees, the workplace, and the labor movement that grew out of the industrial Revolution.  President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday in 1894, when it was signed into law.  This national holiday is about more than barbeques, parades, and cookouts but grew out of activism by the labor unions and railroad workers, who fought for workers’ rights, better working conditions, and adequate pay.

In the late 19th century through the early 20th century, in the wake of the Industrial Revolution, workers were forced to endure substandard working conditions, often working long hours in hazardous conditions without adequate pay.  During this dark period when laborers, factory workers, and employees were exploited, the use of child labor also became prevalent.  In protest, workers began organizing, picketing, striking, and demanding better working conditions, pay, and hours.  Congress saw the creation of Labor Day as a way to appease massive unrest and repair the relationship between employees and their employers.

Today, the majority of American workers will enjoy a three-day weekend every September.  However, closing all business operations is not always practical.  In those instances, employers often consider other ways to show appreciation to their workers, such as additional compensation or other opportunities to enjoy an extra paid day off.  Regardless of how an employer chooses to recognize their workforce, it is important to remember the sacrifices made by those early labor organizations as they fought to improve working conditions in American and the creation of Labor Day.

Ashley W. French is a partner in the firm’s Charleston office.