Labor Day in the United States
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and was created to pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. Labor Day also signals the end of summer and start of the new school year.
History of Labor Day
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers. Many workers (including children) were overworked, underpaid and working in deplorable conditions. It is believed that a number of men fought for the rights of the workers, and thus Labor Day was created. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, and planned by the Central Labor Union.
In 1884, the first Monday in September was selected as Labor Day. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country. In 1894, Congress voted it a federal holiday.
It was decided early on that Labor Day would be celebrated with a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community. Twenty thousand workers marched in a parade holding banners that read "Labor creates all wealth," and "Eight hours for work, eight hours for rest, eight hours for recreation!" As the holiday progressed, speeches by workers were introduced, and more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday.
Labor Day lessons and activities
Help your children identify hard workers within the community, and discuss the many ways these workers contribute to your community and country. Have children discuss the work they do around the home or at church.
Kids can go to work with one of their parents or visit workers in your community to see them in action. They can interview a postal worker, law enforcement officer, gardener or family member.
Quiz your kids about Labor Day by asking: What challenges and problems have workers in the United States faced while in the workforce? What is a union, and what is its purpose? What do you think Labor Day commemorates?
Free online labor day resources
- My Community Unit Study - This free Pre-K to second grade unit study includes a reading list, activities and community helpers.
- Career Exploration Web - With this sixth to eighth grade lesson plan, students build a web while exploring the correlation between different careers in the workforce.
- History.com videos - Kids will love these eight videos on the history of Labor Day and the fight for workers' rights.
How does your family celebrate Labor Day?
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