“What is Labor Day for anyway?” Just a day off work and school? An official end to summer? A patriotic holiday for Americans? A chance to eat great food with my friends and family? The signal to put your white pants and shoes away until next Memorial Day? According to the United States Department of Labor, “Labor Day is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers”. It is a “tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country” (http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm).
Labor or Labour Day is celebrated in a number of countries including: Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Jamaica, Syria, Germany and others. In the United States it is the first Monday of September, but other countries vary as to their day of celebration. In several of these countries Labour Day Parades have been around as far back as the mid 1800’s. In the USA we have celebrated it since 1882, with a Central Labor Union celebration in New York City. The celebration of labor spread to other States quickly and in 1894 Congress passed an act making it officially the first Monday of September each year.
In most countries labor unions and their workers were heavily involved in the creation of Labor or Labour Day with some using the holiday to celebrate the 8 hour, 5 day a week work week. Most of us today are used to a work week similar to that – but many of our ancestors used to work 6 days a week for 10 to 12 hours per day. While the National Sleep Foundation states that the average American worker currently works 46 hours a week – it is much better than that 60 hour or more work week. A review of hours worked and illness conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has found that overtime work is associated with an increase in injuries and mortality, and more illnesses. So take advantage of your Labor Day and do something you enjoy – picnic, hike, enjoy some end of summer produce – and spend it with the people you care about. When you have the opportunity – encourage others to get their work done during regular work hours and avoid large amounts of overtime – which may be hazardous to our health.
United States Department of Labor – http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.htm
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/2004-143/pdfs/2004-143.pdf
Author: Lisa Barlage, Extension Educator, Family and Consumer Science, Ohio State University Extension.