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Labor Day

Labor Day is a public and federal holiday in the United States. It honors the American labor movement, and the contributions that workers have made to the country. Starting in 1882, labor days first began being organized and celebrated by labor unions, and Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day an official public holiday in 1887.

There was an economic downturn in 1893, and by 1894 there was a depression where up to 18% of the country's population was out of work. Wages were slashed at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Illinois, and workers went on strike. The American Railway Union (ARU), led by Eugene Debs, joined the cause, and workers of the ARU refused to handle Pullman railcars. Eventually, President Grover Cleveland sent in federal troops, and the state militia also arrived. The strike was crushed and some died. It was at this time that Labor Day was pushed through as a federal holiday, in order to placate labor after this bitter strike. By this time, thirty states already officially observed the holiday. Some groups wanted Labor Day to take place on May 1, which is International Workers Day, but President Cleveland did not want the day to evoke memories of the the Haymarket Affair. Therefore, a more innocuous date was chosen, one on which various labor days had been celebrated on in the past.

Traditionally, Labor Day consists of parades, followed by gatherings of workers with their families and friends. Labor Day also marks the unofficial end of summer, and it is around this time that students go back to school, and fall sports begin.

How to Observe Labor Day

Labor Day may be celebrated by resting, and reflecting on the hard work that American workers have done throughout American history. Go to a parade in your community, and gather with family and friends afterwards and have a cookout. This is a good day to start reading a book on labor history, or watch a film about the labor movement.

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