Like so many holidays, the true message and meaning of Labor Day has gotten lost in commercial hype.
It has become the traditional end of summer, the back bookend to a season that opened with Memorial Day. It is now, unfortunately, summer’s last gasp as we stuff ourselves at picnics or make final trips to the lake.
Labor Day, which falls on the first Monday in September, was born of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers, according to the United States Department of Labor.
Over time, Americans have given increased emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887.
During the year, four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade, Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.
In other words, it is an annual chance to pay homage to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country. With talk of unemployment, changes in minimum wage and immigration, what this holiday means will continue to evolve.
But, for now, when you enjoy that grilled steak Monday, think about those who worked to make that meal possible.