The unofficial end of summer. The first Monday in September. End of wearing white clothes for the rest of the year. Back to school time. Barbeques, picnics, rest and recreation. The last long weekend of summer. Statutory holiday!!! Of course, it’s Labor Day we’re talking about.
We can thank the Canadians and unions for the day off work. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, almost 150 years ago (1872) in Toronto, Canada, a strike was held by printers to end the 12-hour work days. They wanted a 58-hour work week. What? 58 hours? About ten years later the concept made its way south to the United States. In 1882, Peter McGuire, “an American labor leader, witnessed one of these labor festivals in Toronto. Inspired, he returned to New York and organized the first American ‘labor day’ on 5 September of the same year.” Approximately 10,000 New York workers marched. Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday in 1887. And, in 1894, then President Grover Cleveland signed a bill making it a legal holiday.
It has been noted the average American worked 12-hour days and seven days a week in an effort to support themselves. Children as young as five were often required to work in factories and mines to help make ends meet. Unions organized strikes and rallies to protest poor working conditions, unfair pay, and long hours. The Adamson Act was passed on September 3, 1916 to establish an eight-hour work day with additional pay for overtime. Your day: eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation and eight hours of rest.
White After Labor Day?
Why did white clothes become a fashion issue? Mostly money! If you had money around the turn of the century, the high-society people created dozens of fashion rules. If you could pay, you could play (or wear the right clothes in this case). Women’s magazines in the 50’s had made it clear to middle-class America: white clothing should be worn only between Memorial Day and Labor Day. It seemed to make sense to wear whites to keep you a little cooler in the summer because white absorbs less heat. And even though it might get hot in September, well, never mind. Stick with the fashionista’s. It’s not so much of a faux pas these days, but you may still hear some people mutter that white after Labor Day is a no-no.
Labor Day also adds to the number of long-weekends we are blessed with. Can you imagine not having a long weekend between Independence Day and Thanksgiving? Voila. Labor Day filled the long void between the two dates.
While Labor Day started as a demonstration for workers’ rights and was meant to honor the contributions of workers, it has been adapted into a “regular” holiday. There aren’t as many parades and events held to celebrate the reduction of work hours in a week. Can you imagine working those 12-hour days, seven days a week? Most countries, other than our friends in the great white north, celebrate May 1st(May Day) as the annual day to celebrate the achievements of workers.
Did you hear about the Labor Day joke? It doesn’t work for me. Hope to see you at the beach.