(WWTI) – Today is Labor Day and needs no introduction but perhaps an explanation.
In 1882, 10,000 labor workers march through Union Square in New York to protest poor working conditions and low wages. Next, in May of 1886, tens of thousands of workers protested in cities across the U.S. to demand an eight-hour workday at a time when most American laborers worked 18 or even 20 hours a day. Chicagoans attended an initially peaceful protest when an unidentified individual detonated a bomb that killed a police officer, leading cops to open fire on protesters and provoke violence leading to the deaths of about a dozen workers and police.
Chicago was also the setting for the bloody Pullman strike of 1894, which occurred in May in the company town of Pullman, Chicago, a factory location established by luxury railroad car manufacturer the Pullman Company. At the time, company owner George Pullman lived in a mansion and the laborers lived in barracks-style dormitories. Pullman decided to cut costs, when a nationwide depression struck in 1893, the way a lot of executives at the time did — by lowering wages by almost 30% while he kept the rent on the dormitories the same. Ultimately these conditions led workers to strike on May 11, 1894, the walkout gained the support of the nationwide American Railroad Union and ended up bringing the railroads west of Chicago to a standstill and led to 125,000 workers across 29 railroad companies quitting their jobs.
As Chicago railroad companies hired strikebreakers as replacements and strikers took various actions to stop the trains, The General Managers Association got Richard Olney, a former railroad attorney, to get an injunction against the strike. This injunction allowed then President Grover Cleveland to send in federal troops to break up the strike and to appease the country’s agitated labor movement, Labor Day became a federal holiday to be celebrated on the first Monday in September.
Although this is a brief history of strikes that lead to the creation of today’s holiday; the full story on the strikes is available:
- 1882 Union Square strike on the National Park Service Website;
- 1886 Chicago Strikes on the History Channel’s website; and
- 1894 Railroad Strikes on the History Channel’s website.
Today, Labor Day is usually celebrated with a day off from work and a BBQ or picnic of some kind, it’s also usually the last hurrah before students return to school.
- Scavenger Hunt;
- DIY Bowling or Tin Can Bowling;
- Create an Obstacle Course;
- Play a Classic Outdoor Game;
- Giant DIY Lawn Memory Matching Game;
- Tic-Tac-Toe, the Big One;
- Relay Race; or
- Tug-of-War: An Ultimate Classic.
Happy Labor Day