Tomorrow, the country will honor and celebrate Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer.
But why do we always take a day off on the first Monday in September?
According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, Labor Day was a creation of the labor movement and was dedicated to both the social and economic achievements of American workers.
“It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country,” the DOL stated.
Tomorrow’s holiday has beginnings which date back to the 19th century. The first Labor Day was actuallycelebrated on a Tuesday — Sept. 5, 1882, — in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday a year later, on September 5, 1883.
There are arguments as to who actually came up with the idea of Labor Day, either Peter J. McGuire, the general secretary of the Brotherhood on Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, o Matthew Maguire, a machinst and then later secretary of the International Association of Machinists.
It’s all unclear. But what is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.
However, in 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, which is how the holiday was initially suggested, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date, the DOL stated.
According to the DOL, “The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.”
So with the day off, what do people normally do? Well, besides relaxing and enjoying one less day of work and an upcoming shortened work week. For some, it’s the final opportunity to go on trips before summer officially ends later this month. For students, it’s like school almost didn’t start yet. And of course, it’s starting to look a lot like football season again.
As the holiday is a federal one, all Government offices, schools and organizations and many businesses are closed.
Also, people might want to stop wearing white, as per the old fashioned tradition. While the reasons behind that tradition vary, the most common belief is that white was considered a summer color and that Labor Day marks summer’s unofficial end. It also might have been seen as a status symbol for newer members of both the upper and middle classes. Some people believe that it was created as a prevention measure in snowy areas, as it was difficult to rescue people wearing white in that color during snowy accidents.
Locally, we can begin saying “So long!” to summer and “Welcome! Welcome!” to breezy fall days, far more colorful drives and events taking place, like the King Coal Festival. And since nearly 80 percent of West Virginia is forested, it won’t be too much of an issue to soak in Mother Nature’s glory.
But, it all comes back to honoring the laborers of America.
“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy,” the DOL stated. “It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”
U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall sent an email to the Daily News much in the same vein as the DOL.
“Helen Keller once noted that the world is moved not just by the mighty shoves of its heroes, but by the aggregate of tiny pushes from each of its honest workers,” Rahall said.
“This Labor Day, let us remember those honest workers, as well as the dignity and nobility of an honest day’s labor. And let us commit to ensuring that the gains of labor in America are never undone and that future generations will continue to celebrate Labor Day by recognizing the unsurpassed talents and contributions of the working men and women that have made America great.”