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  • How's this for a strange idea: a day off from work in honor of work itself?

  • Actually, that is what Labor Day, celebrated in the United States and Canada on the first Monday of every September, is all about.

  • The first American Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5th, 1882, as thousands of workers and their families came to Union Square for a day in the park.

  • It was not a national holiday, but had been organized by a union to honor workers and their hard efforts with a rare day of rest, halfway between July 4th and Thanksgiving.

  • There were picnics and parade, but there were also protests.

  • The workers had gathered, not just to rest and celebrate, but to demand fair wages, the end of child labor, and the right to organize into unions.

  • During the period known as The Industrial Revolution, many jobs were difficult, dirty and dangerous.

  • People worked for twelve hours, six days a week, without fringe benefits, such as vacations, health care and pensions.

  • And if you were young, chances are you were doing manual labor instead of your ABCs and fractions.

  • Children as young as ten worked in some of the most hazardous places, like coal mines or factories filled with boiling vats or dangerous machines.

  • Trying to win better pay, shorter hours, and safer conditions, workers had begun to form labor unions in America and Canada.

  • But the companies they worked for often fought hard to keep unions out and to suppress strikes.

  • At times, this led to violent battles between workers and business owners with the owners often backed up by the police, or even the military.

  • In the following years, the idea of Labor Day caught on in America, with official celebrations reaching 30 states.

  • But then came the violent Haymarket Square Riot of 1886, which led to the deaths of several policemen and workers in Chicago and the execution of four union leaders.

  • After that, many labor and political groups around the world had begun to mark Haymarket Square on May 1st, which became known as International Workers' Day.

  • In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the law making Labor Day a federal holiday in America, only days after he had sent 12,000 soldiers to end a violent railroad strike that resulted in the death of several people.

  • The original September date was kept, partly to avoid the more radical associations of May 1st.

  • Canada also created its Labor Day in 1894.

  • But, in spite of this new holiday, it would be a long time before the changes that workers wanted became a reality.

  • In 1938, during the Great Depression that left millions without jobs, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a law calling for an eight-hour work day, a five-day work week, and an end to child labor, some of the first federal protections for American workers.

  • As America and Canada celebrate Labor Day, most of the two countries' children enjoy a day off from school.

  • But it is important to remember that there was a time that everyday was a labor day for children in America and Canada, and unfortunately, the same fact remains true for millions of children around the world today.

How's this for a strange idea: a day off from work in honor of work itself?

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B1 US TED-Ed labor labor day day canada america

【TED-Ed】Why do Americans and Canadians celebrate Labor Day? - Kenneth C. Davis

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    Kevin Tan posted on 2021/01/16
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