What is Labor Day and Why Do We Celebrate?

By Mary Shoemaker August 29, 2018

In just a few days we will celebrate a national holiday — Labor Day! But just when is it, what is it, and why do we celebrate it?

Labor Day was first observed in 1882, during a time when many Americans worked long days in harsh and unsafe work environments for little money. These workers joined together to create unions, which were organized groups created to speak out for the rights of all members. 

On September 5, 1882, union workers in New York City took an unpaid day off of work to protest the poor working conditions. Afterward, many of the workers stayed behind to eat and enjoy the day off of work with their families -- and that was the first Labor Day picnic!

Twelve years later, in 1894, Congress passed an act that made Labor Day a national holiday. And that’s why we celebrate today!

Labor Day is a time for us all to appreciate the contributions of the working class and to honor how they help our country grow and prosper. It is celebrated each year on the first Monday in September and is a national federal holiday in the United States and Canada, which means many people get to have a day off. Since it always falls on a Monday, it means most people get to celebrate with a three-day weekend!

For those who don't get the day off (many health care professionals and those working in retail or service industries, for example), they may earn time-and-a-half or even double-time.