This Is How Labor Day Started

A late 19th century sketch shows male and female workers at a mill
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images
Universal History Archive/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Many workers are so excited to get a three day weekend that it may not occur to them why September’s free Monday exists. For over 100 years the United States has observed Labor Day to pay tribute to the often underappreciated working class. The holiday began when working conditions were much harsher than restrictions would allow them to be today.

According to the History Channel, the creator of Labor Day has only been speculated. During the Industrial Revolution, 84-hour workweeks that had become the norm. On top of long hours, seven days a week, children also worked for a fraction of the wages. The rise of union strikes led to the first Labor Day.

On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers in New York City took an unpaid day in order to march from City Hall to Union Square. The event is the reason that Labor Day exists on the first Monday of September, though it took 12 years and worse conditions for legislation to make the day a legal holiday.

All Pullman railway car workers went on strike on June 26, 1894. The dismal impact on the railroads across the nation led to the federal government’s involvement. They released troops to end the strike, but it led to more riots and the death of a dozen workers. Two days later, on June 28, President Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a national holiday.