Why We Celebrate Labor Day

Most of us know better than to question a day off work. You know what they say about looking a gift horse in the mouth. So each Labor Day, we gratefully skip our morning commute, and enjoy our day off rather than go around asking people why we don’t have to go into work. Of course, deep down you may still wonder why we celebrate Labor Day.

The U.S. observes Labor Day each year on the first Monday of September. It’s essentially a celebration of American workers and their contributions to the United States. The U.S. Department of Labor describes Labor Day as a “national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” Labor Day was first recognized as a federal holiday in 1894.

We tend to forget what working conditions were like a century ago. It’s easy to complain after a hard day at work, but our jobs cushy when compared to past workers. We have health and safety regulations in place, a minimum wage, and a 40-hour work week. It’s easy to take these things for granted, but imagine if you didn’t have them.

There were 12-hour work days (that amounts to a 60-hour work week), with no overtime. Children as young as 5 were working in mills and mines. Your pay depended on the generosity of your employer. Working conditions were often dangerous. It was common for workers to suffer injury or die during work.

Thankfully, work today is nothing close to what it was like in the past. We have codes and regulations to ensure the health and safety of workers. Also, we have industrial robots to do most of the heavy lifting these days. We often credit legislation for helping make work safer for humans, but industrial machines have contributed as well. So enjoy your day off work this Labor Day, celebrate the hard work that you do, and remember those that helped pave the way!