Today is Labor Day, which for many people means a day to wash down hot dogs and burgers with a cold beer or shop for the best bargains on the last day before school begins.
However, as its name implies, Labor Day was first a day to celebrate the labor movement.
The first Labor Day celebration was held in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882, more than a decade before the day became a national holiday.
The celebration featured a parade organized by the Central Labor Union, which represented many of the city’s unions. The parade marched from City Hall, past Union Square and to 42nd Street, where workers and families gathered for a picnic, concert and speeches.
The event inspired similar demonstrations across the country. Oregon became the first state to legally name Labor Day in 1887, with other states soon following suit.
In 1894, Labor Day became a national holiday as a result of the Pullman Strike.
Pullman, Ill., was founded in 1880 by George Pullman, president of the eponymous railroad-car company.
The town was strictly organized and owned by the company, which employed all residents and deducted rent from paychecks.
In 1893, the company was caught in the national depression and worker wages plummeted. Rent, however, remained steady, and employees launched a strike to demand lower rent and higher pay.
The American Railway Union came to the support of the striking workers, and railroad workers across the nation boycotted trains carrying Pullman cars.
After the boycotts resulted in pillaging and looting, President Grover Cleveland declared the strike a federal crime and deployed 12,000 troops to break it. Violence erupted and two men were killed when U.S. marshals fired on protesters in Kensington, Ill.
The strike ended with the American Railway Union being disbanded and Pullman employees pledging that they would never again unionize.
Cleveland’s strike-breaking methods were heavily protested, and six days after troops broke the strike, a bill that would make Labor Day a national holiday arrived on Cleveland’s desk.
Cleveland, sensing an opportunity for reconciliation, signed it into law.
Information gathered from The Library of Congress, the U.S. Department of Labor, PBS