What really is Labor Day?

September 6, 2019

Labor Day is a holiday that most of us in the United States take for granted. For students, it’s another day off of school and a great ease into the new school year. For adults, it’s an extra day off to sleep in and relax. But what really is the history behind this holiday that we take as a relaxation day? 

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” So just as the Fourth of July is here to celebrate the independence of the U.S., Labor Day is here to celebrate American workers. The U.S. Department of Labor also added that it “constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

The history of Labor Day dates back to the late 19th century when Oregon passed legislation to recognize Labor Day in 1887. By 1894, Congress had passed an official act to make the first Monday in September each year a federal holiday of Labor Day. 

Members of the working class, who Labor Day celebrates, are the backbone of the U.S. These individuals spend each day laboring and building our country to its prosperity and bringing so many families one step closer to the American dream. 

As we celebrate Labor Day each year, I want to reflect on the labor movement through the centuries in the U.S.

The celebration of Labor Day has definitely shifted throughout history. It started originally as a large parade to show the public “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations” of the community, according to the Department of Labor website. As more celebrations ensued, more prominent men and women in the community also contributed speeches to these events. 

Even further into the future, at the American Federation of Labor convention in 1909, the Sunday prior to Labor Day was known as Labor Sunday, which was dedicated to “the spiritual and education aspects of the labor movement,” said the Department of Labor website. 

I just wanted to give a shout-out to all the individuals on our campus that work tirelessly everyday to make our campus great. Whether it be the workers in the dining halls cooking and serving us food, the facilities workers cleaning and fixing problems around our campus, librarians who stay up until 2 a.m. to provide a workspace on campus, and our professors that harbor a great learning environment, this day is to celebrate you! Thank you for all you do to make this campus one of the best in the country. 

So next year, while you’re sleeping in and enjoying your day off from school and work, just take a moment to say thanks to all the people that worked hard in the U.S. to help bring about more freedoms and opportunities. It is these people that made immense sacrifices for our country. 

Also, if you’re interested in further supporting these individuals, reach out to your local community to see how you can get involved. One group on campus that is very involved in these issues is the Brandeis Labor Coalition, which works as a student advocating voice for workers on Brandeis campus!

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