Who Should We Thank For Labor Day?
With Labor Day weekend in sight, much of Santa Clarita’s working class will simultaneously light their barbeques, open their domestic beers, haul out their underused patio furniture and joyously welcome the start of the new football season.
Of course, each festivity will be held in honor of the outspoken laborers of the late 1800s – the blue-collar individuals who fought for a single day out of the year to celebrate the working man.
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Come Monday, September 6, these men and their mission will be remembered – in the thoughts and toasts of residents throughout Santa Clarita.
Well, not really. The fiery ideals, rallies and parades have gradually waned over the years, instead evolving into the barbeques, sales and three-day getaways most Americans prefer today.
Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean we don’t owe those 19th century upstarts a huge “thank you.” But who to thank? Who started Labor Day? Well, there are two schools of thought on the matter.
One theory credits Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, with first suggesting the day in 1882.
One of the influential advocates of the eight-hour work day, in May of ’82 McGuire proposed to the New York City Central Labor Union that the first Monday in September be set aside for a “labor day.”
On September 5, 1882 – a Tuesday, for that matter – workers in New York City held a large parade and a festival sponsored by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor.
This is usually regarded as the very first Labor Day. Nevertheless, an individual bearing a similar name contests McGuire’s status as founder: Matthew Maguire.
Many believe Maguire, a machinist and secretary of the Central Liberties Union, was the holiday’s mastermind. However, history hasn’t been kind to the activist.
Due to the fact that Maguire angered the mainstream labor movement in by running for vice president on the National Socialist Labor Party ticket in 1896, he’s often overlooked as Labor Day’s founding father.
Regardless of who officially spearheaded the first Labor Day, it sparked enough interest in New York for other states to follow suit. After 1882, the holiday was gradually adopted by Oregon, Colorado, Massachusetts and New Jersey.
By 1894, Congress had passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday for the entire country. More than 100 years later, it is this format we follow today, and we have either McGuire or Maguire to thank.