Summer is finally drawing to a close and, like we say every year, it’s hard to believe how fast the time goes by. For me, it seems like we just celebrated New Year’s Eve and now the Labor Day weekend has arrived out of nowhere. Much like every other milestone during 2020, each holiday looks and feels different this year. For us Tennessee Volunteer fans, we were supposed to be getting ready to cheer on our team for their first game tomorrow. I’m certain the fans of other teams inside this firm were ready for their opening week as well. While some college programs still have games on the schedule and we are promised an NFL season, it seems like we must adjust to this new way of life at every turn. Regardless, as I have heard many people say over the past few months, there is plenty for which we can be thankful. The very holiday we are about to celebrate reminds us that we, as a society in general, don’t have to work in the conditions that were present in this country during the late 1800s and early 1900s. During that time period, the average American worked 12 hours per day and 7 days per week just to earn a basic living. Children as young as 5 years old worked in factories and mines during that time. Although many people have jobs that involve things we do not like, we have come a long way as a society in terms of how workers are treated.
The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882 in New York City and was planned by the Central Labor Union. The Labor Day parade on that day included 10,000 workers who took unpaid leave to march through what is now midtown Manhattan. The day ended with a concert, speeches from several citizens and a picnic. The people marching carried signs with slogans that read “Eight Hours for a Legal Day’s Work” and “Less Hours and More Pay.” The origins of Labor Day are still in dispute, depending upon who you ask. Some historians cite Peter McGuire, the co-founder of the Federation of Labor, as the first to propose a holiday celebrating the workforce. Other researchers suggest that another individual with a very similar last name – Matthew Maguire – was the first to come up with the idea. Maguire was a machine worker from New Jersey and had become the secretary for the New York Central Labor Union. Regardless, we do know that on June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia. In 1894, the rest of the country followed when President Cleveland signed the holiday into law. In 1916, the 8-hour workday was firmly established with the passage of the Adamson Act. This would be the first federal law regulating hours of workers in private companies.
Although we have tried to adjust to a new way of life this year, I am thankful to still live in a country where the right to work is respected as much as the conditions in which we perform our jobs. There is still plenty to celebrate during this last holiday of summer, and I hope we all take time to reflect upon the many positive things about our great country.