NBC12 VIEWPOINT: The beginning of Labor Day was no picnic - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

NBC12 VIEWPOINT: The beginning of Labor Day was no picnic

By: Kym Grinnage email 

The history of Labor Day sometimes gets lost in between all of the barbeques and celebrations.

Labor Day pays tribute to the social and economic achievements of American workers and it was created as the result work of the labor movement in the late 19th century. Congress made it a federal holiday in June of 1894.

Although the idea for and unofficial celebrations of Labor Day started in the 1880s, the catalyst for the designation of the federal holiday started in the heart of a very difficult recession. Due to reduced demand of railways workers in Chicago and across the country, railway magnate George Pullman made a decision to lay off workers due to the diminished demand.

The Pullman workers decided to strike in May 1894, and in July of that year, against the wishes of the current Governor of Illinois, President Grover Cleveland sent federal troops to Chicago to crush the strike.

Unfortunately, the clash between the workers and the troops turned violent, resulting with the loss of life and property, and it was not until the fall of that year that order was finally restored.

The American Workers Union President Eugene Debs was convicted of defying a court order and sent to prison. Today, we recognize the work of all American workers and we want to take a moment to recognize that this day has deeper meaning than just a day off from work.

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