Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.

LABOR DAY LEGISLATION

Through the years, the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation.

The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on Feb. 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment.

By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania had followed suit.

By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

FOUNDER OF LABOR DAY

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first to suggest a day to honor those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.”

Many people, however, believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday.

Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York.

It is clear, however, that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

THE FIRST LABOR DAY

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on Sept. 5, 1883.

Information obtained from U.S. Department of Labor website, www.dol.gov.