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By Kelley-AsAMom Admin:

What is Labor Day?

Established by Congress in 1894, Labor Day is a Federal Holiday designating the First Monday of September as a day recognizing the workers of America and their accomplishments.  If you look at today’s workers, they are protected by thousands of labor laws, including minimum wage laws.  Child labor has been outlawed.  A brief summary of major labor protection laws is listed at the link. http://www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/lawsprog.htm

Toward the end of the Industrial Revolution, 19th century, the US had few if any laws protecting workers from abusive employers and arbitrary pay cuts. Adults and children, as young as 5, endured twelve hour work days and 7 day work weeks. Working conditions were extremely dangerous. Many workers young and old were killed on the job during this period. Others eager to eek out a meager existence doing the work quickly replaced anyone protesting wages or conditions.

The brutal conditions, meager pay and countless abuses caused the labor movement to grow.  Workers organized and acted together to force change.  Union strikes were met with force by companies, and in the case of the Pullman Rail car strike in June of 1894, the Federal government sent troops to Chicago to quell the strike and the ensuing riots which paralyzed the operation of the railroads. Many workers, as well as policemen were killed.

In the aftermath Congress established Labor Day as a Federal Holiday in the District of Columbia and US Territories.