What is Labor Day anyway?

Sometimes, a person can be sitting outside, eating grilled food, enjoying a day off of work, and have no idea why.

Well, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) Pennsylvania has recognized Labor Day as a holiday since the late 1880s. It was among the first eight states to recognize the holiday, with Oregon being the first.

In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed a Senate bill declaring Labor Day a federal holiday.

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers,” according to DOL. “It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

The two men who get credit for possibly being first to propose a holiday recognizing workers are McGuire and Maguire, according to DOL.

“More than a century after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers,” DOL said. “Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

“But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged,” according to DOL. “Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.”

Maguire’s case gains traction as the CLU planned the celebration at the first Labor Day holiday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City.

“In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a ‘workingmen’s holiday’ on that date,” according to DOL. “The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.”

“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy,” according to DOL. “It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”

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