5 Things You Didn’t Know About Labor Day

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Photo by mohamed_hassan on Pixabay

Most Americans will mark Labor Day with one last pool party, firing up the grill one more time before the weather starts to change, or with a get-together with family and friends. Many families consider it the last blast of summer, and many of us don’t give much thought to the reason it exists.

Here are 5 things you may not have known about this line of demarcation, over which white pants simply cannot cross.

LABOR DAY HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE MILITARY: Despite what your social media feed may tell you and the prevalence of the American flag in Labor Day messages, today is not about fallen soldiers, honoring America’s fighting men, or any war effort.

Labor Day is about the contributions and achievements of America’s working class. This isn’t about the military or the elite, today is by-and-large a blue collar everyman holiday, honoring those who work a 40-hour week.

THANKS TO THE LABOR MOVEMENT WE WORK LESS: The typical work day in the late 1800s was 12 hours. The typical work week was 7 days. The workforce at that time also included young children working in conditions that would land your boss in jail today. The labor movement changed that and is often credited with giving us the Monday-through-Friday, 40-hour work week.

IT ISN’T JUST A MONDAY THING: The Sunday before Labor Day is known as Labor Sunday. It is set aside as a day to devote to the educational and spiritual aspects of the labor movement.

THE LABOR MOVEMENT WASN’T PEACEFUL: The reason we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September instead of on May 1, which is International Worker’s Day has a violent history. 

Grover Cleveland feared that commemorating the labor movement on May 1 would be mistaken as a commemoration of the Haymarket Affair, which was on May 4. On that day in 1886 a member of the Labor Movement in Chicago — which was striking for an eight-hour day — threw dynamite at police officers.

The day before, the police had killed several workers. The bomb resulted in the deaths of four civilians and seven police officers.

SALE PRICES COME AT A COST: Labor Day is a big sale day in the retail sector. Unfortunately, while many non-retail workers are enjoying a day free of labor, retail workers actually end up working longer days to accommodate all of that extra business.

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