Labor Day 2015

31 Aug

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It’s a common fact that Labor Day in the United States is a holiday recognized on the first Monday in September. It’s a national celebration of the American labor movement, and it marks the official end of summer, complete with pool parties and cookouts. A Labor Day fact, not commonly recognized across the United States is that in most of the rest of the world, Labor Day is celebrated in May, not September.

In more than 80 countries around the world, labor unions and working people take to the streets on May 1st, the holiday most often referred to as International Workers’ Day. The day marks the 1886 Haymarket Affair in Chicago, where police shot and killed several demonstrators who were fighting for the eight-hour workday. Over the next several years, people across the globe began demonstrating on May 1, and in many countries the day became an official holiday.

So why don’t we, in the United States, celebrate Labor Day in May?

Government officials feared instigating anger over the event at Haymarket Square by recognizing the date of May 1st, but politicians and others realized that a holiday honoring workers was absolutely necessary. Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve rush legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday. President Grover Cleveland signed it into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date originally chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation’s trade unions for the past several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers’ Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would be associated with the nascent socialist and anarchist movements that, though distinct from one another, had rallied to commemorate the Haymarket Affair in International Workers’ Day.

All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made Labor Day a statutory holiday.

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