When Labor Day is mentioned, many people look forward to the fall season quickly approaching, storing away their white articles of clothing or even Bey Day, as in this year’s case.
Almost everyone unanimously appreciates the day off they receive from their workplace. However, this treasured one-day vacation did not make an appearance on the calendars of Allegheny students and faculty this week.
Allegheny College’s schedule is proof that not every institution gives the first Monday in September off, demonstrating the mixed opinions employers and workers alike have in regards to the holiday. Ultimately, Labor Day should always be acknowledged on any schedule — here is its history and the reason why.
Labor Day originated during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States, collectively known as the Gilded Age. During this time, American cities prospered as many working-class and middle-class citizens became mill and factory workers to benefit big industries such as Carnegie Steel or the Standard Oil Company. Unfortunately for the workers, many aspects of employment, including workplace conditions and hours, were unsafe or unreasonable. This caused the growth and development of many labor unions.
Rachel Siegel argued in the Washington Post that union leaders, most notably Peter J. McGuire — leader of the American Federation of Labor — are responsible for creating Labor Day.
“Many sources point to Peter J. McGuire as the holiday’s progenitor,” the article reads, in part.
Since the law declaring the date to be a federal holiday went into effect on June 28, 1894, the first Monday of September has been reserved as a date to formally recognize all working Americans.
Today, many organizations, including Allegheny College, do not recognize Labor Day as a legitimate holiday and day off. This is an unfortunate issue. Labor unions are responsible for many accomplishments, including higher wages, schedules and hours that were more reasonable, safer conditions, child labor regulations and the establishment of Social Security and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prevented discrimination in the workplace on the basis of race, ethnicity, sex or religion.
While our generation has taken these rights and privileges for granted, celebrating Labor Day gives young students and senior citizens alike the time to appreciate the efforts and accomplishments made during the Gilded Age and encourage active labor union members fighting today.
Working conditions and healthcare laws regarding labor have drastically improved since the Industrial Revolution spread to the United States, but much action still has to be taken — this includes fighting for or opposing the $15 federal minimum wage or more employee benefits under bills such as the ACA.
Regardless of personal opinion or political affiliation, acknowledging Labor Day gives all Americans the chance to appreciate diligent working-class and middle-class families and to acknowledge that the fight is far from over.