Local 892 President Don Cattell
on The History of Labor Day
By Don Cattell
"Labor Day...is devoted to no man, living or dead, to no sect, race, or nation."
More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt about who actually first proposed the holiday for workers. Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, General Secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those, "...who from blood, sweat and tears carved all the dignity and rights we behold."
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.
Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states - Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York - created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
The forum that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday - a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and sprit of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
On September 2, 2002 Local 892, along with many other local Unions, will pay tribute to those who have brought us the rights and benefits our families and we enjoy. I encourage each and every member and their families to join us, on Monday, for the Labor Day Parade in Detroit, let's all celebrate together.