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Home > Blog: Work/Life > Workers of the World, Pass the Ketchup

Workers of the World, Pass the Ketchup

Today's post is for anyone who's ever wondered why Labor Day is called Labor Day, instead of Last-Big-Party-of-Summer Day, or School-Just-Started-or-Will-Start-Tomorrow Day.

Labor Day in contemporary times is a holiday for honoring all working people; the ones who make, repair, deliver, care for, communicate, design, heal, build, package, serve, rescue, maintain, educate, and beautify the people, places, and things in our lives.

It's the day when most of us get to relax, eat burgers and dogs hot off the grill, and consume our beverages-of-choice while toasting ourselves, "Here's to us!"

With a hat-tip to, I bring you this 7-point timeline of great moments in Labor Day history, so you'll know (roughly) how it came to be.

If you throw these Labor Day trivia tidbits into conversation during your festivities this weekend, your friends will think you're quite the historian. (I'll leave it up to you to decide if that's a desirable thing.)

Here's roughly how Labor Day got its start:

  • In the late 1800s, the Industrial Revolution brings about a major societal shift from rural agriculture to urban manufacturing and production.
  • Laws to protect workers' rights do not exist or are poorly enforced. Twelve-hour workdays, 7-day workweeks, child labor, and unguarded safety hazards are standard operating procedure.
  • Workers begin organizing themselves into labor unions and voicing their demands for better working conditions.
  • In September 1882, 10,000 workers march from city hall to Union Square in New York City — the first-ever labor parade.
  • In May 1894, workers at the Pullman [Railroad] Car Company in Chicago go on strike to protest wage cuts and the firings of union reps. The strike brings workers' rights to the public eye.
  • In June 1894, union leaders call for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars. Railroad traffic comes to a halt as 50,000 rail workers comply. President Cleveland dispatches troops to break the strike.
  • On June 28, 1894, Congress declares the first Monday in September Labor Day, an annual federal holiday for workers.

As we approach the 115th Labor Day, we look forward to an annual tradition that has spread throughout the U.S., Canada, and other industrialized nations.

Labor Day holds deep significance to working people everywhere, who share a universal love and respect for long weekends, especially those that include a paid day off.

  • Congratulations to every worker who will be enjoying a nice break this Labor Day.
  • Compassion to every job seeker lamenting the fact that there's zero chance you'll get called for an interview on Monday. (Next Labor Day will be so much better.)
  • And a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU to those who will be hard at work on Labor Day, protecting, caring for, and selling things to the rest of us. (Hope you're at least getting time-and-a-half!)

Happy Labor Day, everybody!

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