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In One Ear: Labor of love

Labor Day’s beginnings
By Elleda Wilson

The Daily Astorian

Published on September 1, 2017 12:01AM

Since Monday is Labor Day, a little history lesson is in order, right from the source, the U.S. Department of Labor (

Although there had been many parades, picnics, etc. supporting labor in the 1800s, there was no specific day devoted to the working man. However, at a meeting of the Central Labor Union in New York in May 1882, someone — no mention of who, exactly — proposed a “monster labor festival” for September. A committee was duly formed, the date set, a park was chosen and a resolution was passed declaring “that the 5th of September be proclaimed a general holiday for the workingmen in this city.”

Unfortunately, employers weren’t exactly on board with this idea, and anyone participating in the event would lose a day’s pay. But that didn’t seem to throw a wet blanket on the festivities, as the various local unions puffed up their coffers by managing to sell 20,000 tickets to the event.

Sept. 5, 1882 started out with grim prospects, as only a few showed up at the beginning of the parade. Gradually groups of union members and labor supporters showed up, however, and an estimated 10,000 people wound up in the parade by the time it arrived at the park for the celebration. An illustration of the crowd is shown.

The event was a decided hit, and gradually other areas started having festivals honoring workers, too. In fact, Oregon was the first state declaring Labor Day a state holiday in 1887, making it the first Saturday in June, strangely enough ( Eventually, bowing to public pressure, in 1894, Congress declared an annual Labor Day to be celebrated the first Monday in September, as it has been ever since. And there you have it. Enjoy the day!


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