The first person to come up with the idea is continually debated, although on September 5, 1882, the first Labor Day celebration was held in New York City as organized by the Central Labor Union. A similar celebration was held on September 5 the following year, and in 1884 the first Monday of September was selected as the annual celebration of Labor Day.
The idea of such a celebration was appreciated by other labor unions, and by 1884 such celebrations were held in many cities around the United States. Between 1887 and 1891 legislators in New York, Colorado, Massachusetts, and New Jersey passed laws recognizing the holiday. By 1894 23 other states passed similar laws, and it was that year Congress passed a law honoring Labor Day as a national holiday.
A parade and family amusement activities were the main feature of the original celebrations, and later on speeches from prominent men and women were added. The general purpose of the celebration is as follows:
The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.It was a holiday created by unions, back when unions were necessary and useful to protect the labor force. Little did they know when the holiday was created that America would go on to become the world's leading economy. And you and I, as hard working nurses, doctors, x-ray techs, EMTs, and respiratory therapists, are a part of this. We are being celebrated today.
We are the unseen worker who work hard around the clock, even on holidays, even on weekends, to keep people healthy so they can continue to labor. Yes, folks, you should sit back a moment, take a deep breath, and feel proud that you are a part of the great American labor force -- the greatest labor force in the world.
- The U.S. Department of Labor, "The History of Labor Day," http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm