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Americans work hard, and on the first Monday of every September we take a moment to acknowledge their efforts. Labor Day has a fascinating history, and one that you might not expect. The roots of Labor Day stretch back to the Industrial Revolution, when jobs became plentiful, but not without a cost. As conditions worsened and work days grew longer, unions sprang up as a way to protect the rights of the common laborer. Workers in Canada didn’t fare quite so well because unions were illegal. In 1872, workers marched directly to the door of Canadian Prime Minister John Macdonald, demanding the right to organize. He relented, and the march became a Canadian tradition. As for who brought the tradition to our country, there are two competing candidates. Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter and member of the American Federation of Labor, witnessed the celebrations in Canada and proposed a similar parade to New York City’s Central Labor Union in 1882. That same year, machinist Matthew Maguire proposed a national Labor Day after a public demonstration by the Central Labor Union. THE HISTORY OF LABOR DAY
Labor Day didn’t become a federal holiday, though, until a few years later. In 1894, the American Railway Union went on strike against the Pullman Company in what is now known as the Pullman Strike. President Grover Cleveland called in the Army and U.S. Marshals in attempt to break the strike, and several workers in Chicago lost their lives. In an effort to quell tensions and garner union vote support, President Cleveland signed Labor Day into law just six days after the strike ended. Our country would not be what it is today without the immense effort of laborers. As you enjoy the last long weekend before fall, take a moment to acknowledge just what a difference these hardworking people make.
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