Honor Labor

For many, the Labor Day weekend signifies the last days of summer break, a celebrated day off until Thanksgiving, or being able to wear white pants one more time. The three-day weekend is coveted to many families and postal workers, business folks and bankers. As we barbeque near the beach, or get stuck in traffic on the way home from a weekend getaway, let’s remember our historical friends that graced us with a day off every first Monday in September.

It’s still unknown who gets credit for establishing the labor movement. Two men are closely associated with initiating the holiday over 100 years ago—Peter J. McGuire and Matthew Maguire. McGuire was the cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, who recommended a day to honor those “who have carved all the grandeur we behold”. The other contender, Maguire, was a machinist who proposed the holiday to the Central Labor Union in 1882. The proposal was accepted, and the first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in New York City on Tuesday September 5, 1882.

Two years later, the “workingmen’s holiday” was observed on the first Monday in September. The movement gained momentum and government recognition. By 1894, Congress passed an act making it an annual, national holiday.

In San Francisco, not everyone is fortunate to call themselves a workingman or woman. Unemployment rates for June 2011 reported that 221,149 people are without a job. The city’s unemployment rate (10.0%) falls in between the National rate (9.2%) and the state’s rate (11.8%).

Labor day– a legal holiday whose history is often overshadowed by picnics and fashion statements.


Photo Credit: Ruffles and Blossoms

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