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What You Don’t Know about Labor Day

Here’s a look at Labor Day, a legal holiday celebrated in the United States and Puerto Rico to honor working people.

  • It is celebrated on the first Monday in September, While in many other countries, May Day (May 1st) is the day working people are honored.
  • Most of Europe celebrates May Day.
  • For many, Labor Day symbolizes the end of summer.
  • As of July 2020, there were more than 159 million people in the civilian labor force in the US.

Timeline:
Early 1880s – The idea for creating a holiday to honor workers is proposed by either Peter McGuire of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Union or Matthew McGuire of the International Association of Machinists (US Department of Labor). The Central Labor Union of New York appoints a committee to organize a picnic and parade in honor of working people.

September 5, 1882 – New York City holds the first Labor Day parade. It is estimated that 10,000 workers participate. (US Census Bureau) Not all employers support the idea, but many union workers take the first Monday in September off anyway. Some unions levy fines against workers who do go into work. At the time, workers received time off for Christmas, the Fourth of July, and every other Sunday.

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1887 – Oregon becomes the first state to make Labor Day a legal holiday.

1894 – President Grover Cleveland and the US Congress make it a national holiday.

Labor Unions:
1983 – The union membership rate was 20.1 percent and the US Membership was 16.3 million in 2019.

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2019 – Hawaii and New York had the highest rate of union workers among the states: Hawaii with 23.5 percent and New York with 21 percent.

South Carolina and North Carolina had the lowest, with 2.2 percent and 2.3 percent

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