Why is Labor Day Monday a day off for many Americans? And why does it land on a Monday each year?
If you’re one of the lucky ones who get to enjoy a 3-day Labor Day weekend, you can thank activists & politicians for that.
Labor Day goes back to Tuesday, September 5, 1882. That’s when workers’ rights activists organized the first Labor Day parade in New York, as a way to demand fewer hours for more pay. After Labor Day was celebrated once again on September 5 the next year, the Central Labor Union (the country’s biggest at the time) decided to move the holiday to the first Monday in September in 1884.
A decade later, in 1894 the U.S. government recognized Labor Day as an official holiday. President Grover Cleveland signed a law setting an annual day to honor working Americans. While International Workers’ Day, or May Day, did already exist at the time, that particular day honored victims of the 1886 Haymarket affair, where seven police officers & a civilian were killed during a labor protest in Chicago. So, the government chose to create Labor Day instead of combining the two. And, thanks to the influence of the Central Labor Union, Labor Day was set on the first Monday in September.
In 1968, President Lyndon Johnson reinforced Labor Day’s spot on our calendar when he signed the “Uniform Monday Holiday Act” into law. That legislation moved several other federal holidays from their specific dates to Mondays: Memorial Day, Veterans Day, Presidents’ Day, Columbus Day, and the already-set-on-Monday Labor Day (don’t fix what ain’t broken, right?).
There was a push in 1909 by the American Federation of Labor to try & move Labor Day to Sunday. But pretty much everyone was already content to celebrate it on a Monday, so that effort failed. And, when you think of it, celebrating Labor Day at the tail-end of a three-day weekend makes sense, since it gives workers a day off on what would normally be the start of a busy workweek. Now if we could only the Friday before off, too…
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