This holiday, a celebration of the American worker, has its roots in unions and labor organizations, and initially, was observed with parades and marches in support of various unions, and workers' rights. The first Labor Day observation is believed to have been a New York City parade held on September 5, 1882, under the leadership of Peter McGuire, an Irish-American cabinet maker and pioneer unionist. At that time, most workers put in twelves hours every day, and the parade was in support of establishing an 8-hour workday.
Oregon was the first state to pass an official Labor Day law, in 1887, but the Feds were a little slower, and didn't enact a law establishing the day as a Federal Holiday until 1894. Earlier that year, President Grover Cleveland, who was rather anti-union, sent troops into Chicago to "take control" of an American Railway Union strike at the Pullman Company. As a result, thirty-four workers died. Shortly thereafter, Congress passed legislation to establish the holiday, and Cleveland signed the bill in a hasty effort to mitigate the fallout from the fiasco in Chicago.
An interesting tidbit: the first labor strike held in the U.S. was all the way back in 1636, when a group of Maine fishermen refused to work after the owner of the boats failed to pay them.
Canadians also celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September . . . only they call it "Labour" Day.
Some other countries, like Australia, celebrate the holiday on the first day of May.
Since the number of union members is down considerably from what it once once, Labor Day is no longer marked by marches, parades, and protests, as it once was. Now, it's more or less morphed into a one last blow-out celebration of summer. Cook-outs, BBQs, and relaxation, with a handful of political speeches thrown into the mix.
One thing Labor Day . . . or Labour Day . . . ISN'T is a day to labor. So enjoy your holiday, everyone.
Hard work never killed anybody, but why take a chance? Edgar Bergen