NORTH DAKOTA (KXNET) — When you think of Labor Day, you may think of a holiday to shop sales and barbecue with your friends and family.
But the origin of this holiday is far from it.
Labor Day is celebrated on the first Monday in September every year and is meant to honor the contributions and achievements made by American workers.
In the late 19th century, labor activists pushed for the holiday, and in 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday of September a federal holiday, every year.
Labor activists and labor unions were instrumental in getting Labor Day approved as a nationwide holiday.
“Workers were at the mercy of their employers in terms of the wages they earned, which were in many cases rather low. In terms of protecting the workers because we’re picking this up in a time period where there was little to no safety regulation for example,” said Bethany Andreasen, a U.S. History professor at Minot State University.
So labor unions were created to protect worker rights and prevent exploitation.
“In the past, people died for things like 8-hour days, for safety on the job. So Labor Day is a really important day to remember what happened and celebrate the gains that we have made. But it’s also a time to look forward to the battles that we still have,” said North Dakota AFL-CIO President Landis Larson.
Take the Great Resignation, for example, it’s been more than a year since Americans turned the workplace upside down, leaving their jobs in droves.
And, while we may have a lot of work still left to do, Americans in the 19th century were celebrating all they had accomplished.
“Back then, the parade was very common. You would always start out with a parade and members of the different unions would march down the street with banners, letting people know which union they were involved with. There would be marching bands as well. Anyone who wanted to support the cause of labor certainly could join. Followed by some big celebration at a local park in many cases,” said Andreasen.
Now, more than a century later, the way people celebrate the day has changed.
“It’s the last weekend of summer and we all enjoy the summer activities for the last time, but spending a few minutes thinking about the importance of labor to the development of our country I think is an important thing to do,” said Andreasen.
According to the personal financial website Wallet Hub, 53% of Americans planned to go out of town this year for Labor Day Weekend.