Today, Labor Day is an opportunity to spend time with loved ones at a barbecue or picnic, take a trip or to just relax. In all the fun we often forget the struggle that working Americans endured and the victories that were won to achieve today’s workplace rights.
Some facts and history about the labor movement:
1872: Oh, Canada! The day originates in the north.
Many Americans consider Labor Day a uniquely American experience, but Labor Day’s beginnings stem from Canada. The Toronto Printers Union was lobbying for a shorter work week and went on strike that year, drawing 10,000 supporters to their parade.
1882: The first American Labor Day rally took place in New York City on September 5.
Before Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894, 10,000 citizens marched through NYC demanding better working conditions in protest of the 12-hour work day.
1894: Labor Day becomes an official holiday.
Making Labor Day an official national holiday a part of his political campaign, President Grover Cleveland made good on his promise, and signed a law making Labor Day an officially recognized U.S. holiday.
1897: Coal miners increase their union numbers ten times over.
The coal miners’ strike that year by the United Mine Workers of America increased membership from 10,000 to 115,000 and was one of many strikes by the miners around the turn of the century.
1919: Members of the Actors Equity Association protest Broadway theaters in New York.
Left with no performances, fans were bewitched to see the celebrities of the time – Lionel Barrymore, Eddie Cantor, and Marie Dressler– strutting on the picket lines instead of the stage.
1954: Unionization hits its peak in the U.S.
According to the Congressional Research Service, 34.8 percent of the American workforce was unionized that year.
1968: At the time of his assassination in Memphis, Tennessee, Martin Luther King, Jr. was in town to support the sanitation workers’ strike.
In the late 1960s, King’s activism increasingly shifted from basic civil rights to issues of systemic poverty, unemployment, and barriers of economic opportunity for all Americans.
2015: Today, the National Education Association is the largest union in the country, with 3.2 million members.
Continue to show your support for fair wages, safe working conditions, and respect on the job so that we can uphold the tradition of Labor Day!
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