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How Did It All Start?
The Struggle of American Workers
The march became an annual tradition to support fellow laborers and to remind employees of the necessity for fair pay and hours. Then in 1882, Canadian labor officials invited an American Union leader, Peter J. McGuire, to participate and watch Toronto’s labor celebration. McGuire was so inspired by the event that he suggested NewYork hold a workers’ parade to the NewYork City Central Labor Union to celebrate workers throughout the city. On Sept. 5, 1882, thousands of NewYork workers marched from city hall to union square, and the day included picnics, concerts, and speeches. In 1884, the date was moved to the first Monday of September, and the Central Labor Union encouraged the whole United States to follow NewYork’s lead and allow laborers to parade through the city streets, all in the name of the “Working Man’s Holiday.” However, Labor Day wasn’t put on the national calendar until after a disaster in Pullman, Illinois. Train workers went on strike to protest the severe pay cuts they were getting, and President Grover Cleveland sent 12,000 federal troops to stop it. The conflict ended with 30 lives lost. To appease the nation, Cleveland signed a bill that made Labor Day a federal holiday in 1894. The holiday increased in popularity and significance up until the second half of the 20th century. Labor Day stood as a rallying point for workers wanting fair pay, benefits, and safer conditions. However, as companies, businesses, and factories have closed down and hired laborers from overseas, the labor force has dwindled considerably. Even so, Labor Day is still celebrated today.
Have you ever wondered why we celebrate Labor Day on the first Monday in September? In the 19th century, the Industrial Revolution changed Canada and the United States, bringing the two countries into the age of modernism. Although employment began to climb, the hours were long, and workers were forced to endure unfair pay cuts. Due to these conditions, workers in both countries started to unionize, which were illegal in Canada until 1872. In Ottawa that year, thousands of workers took to the streets and marched toward Prime Minister John Mcdonalds’ home, abolishing the anti-union law.
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