Monday, September 5, 2011
Have a safe Labor Day
Have a safe Day.
Labor Day in America
Labor Day is a legal holiday in the U.S.A. It is celebrated the first Monday in September. It is a day for the nation to honor its workers.
Today, Labor Day is a family holiday. It is the last big weekend of summer. Many people pack picnic lunches. They go to the beach, the lake, or the mountains. Others invite friends over for a barbecue. Some towns hold Labor Day parades. Politicians may give speeches.
But the first Labor Day celebration in the United States was not about family or fun. Instead, it was about making life better for America�s working class.
Back then, workers were not always treated well. Hundreds of new immigrants arrived in the country every day. Most spent all their money getting to America. By the time they arrived, they would take any job they could find.
Factory owners often took advantage of the situation. They paid workers little, but expected them to work 12-, 14-, even 16-hour days. What�s more, jobs were often dangerous. Even children worked in situations where a mistake could mean death.
Peter McGuire was 11 years old when he took his first factory job. His father had left home to fight in the Civil War. His mother needed money to support the family. Young Peter did what he could to keep food on the table. But as he grew into an adult, he resolved to improve working conditions in America�s factories.
Peter believed that workers needed to unite. So he became a labor union leader. Along with organizing workers, McQuire called for a celebration honoring the working man. In 1882, the Knights of Labor organized America�s first Labor Day parade. More than 10,000 workers took the day off work. They marched through the streets of New York City. They carried signs calling for shorter working days. They proposed a standard eight-hour day.
In the years that followed, more labor unions sprang up. They called for better pay and safer working conditions. They also asked the government to make Labor Day a national holiday. In 1894, Congress responded, and President Grover Cleveland signed the law giving America's workers their day.
Working conditions have improved over the past century. Child labor has been outlawed. Worker safety is now a priority. Laws restrict how many hours men and women can be required to work. Laws also now specify a minimum wage.
Labor unions still run television and newspaper advertisements around Labor Day. They encourage people to support America�s workers by buying American-made products. But for most of America�s workers, Labor Day is now just a day off work. It�s the final day of a three-day weekend and a time to have fun with friends and loved ones.
Countries the world have labor holidays, but not necesarily on the same day. Aside from the United States, only Canada observes Labor Day the first Monday of September. China, India and many European countries choose to honor worker on May 1, dubbed International Workers' Day. New Zealand celebrates Labour Day on the fourth Monday of October, while Australia allows states and territories to schedule their own observances.