Some Labor Day history offered
September 10, 2020
To The Eagle:
This country’s historical amnesia ensured that few people mentioned or celebrated, this recent Labor Day, the progressive, radical Socialist, Marxist origins of the labor movements that united the workers of this country and gave them the strength to ‘break their chains’ and achieve better wages, safer working conditions, more humane working hours, and the elimination of factory child labor.
The late nineteenth century was a time when industrial capitalism was new, raw, and brutal. Between 1881 and 1900, a period known as the Gilded Age, 35,000 workers per year lost their lives in industrial and other accidents at work, and strikes were commonplace. Chicago police attacked and killed many demonstrators on strike at the McCormack Reaper factory.
No fewer than 100,000 workers went on strike each year. In 1892, for example, 1,298 strikes involving some 164,000 workers took place across the nation. Unions—which function to protect workers’ wages, hours of labor, and working conditions—were on the rise.
The goal of organizations like the Central Labor Union and modern-day counterparts like the AFL-CIO was to bring many small unions together to achieve a critical mass of power. The organizers of the first Labor Day were interested in creating an event that brought different types of workers together to meet each other and join in a common cause.
On that first Labor Day, Sept. 5, 1882, 10,000 citizens marched for labor rights down the streets of Manhattan. During that time the average American worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. It wasn't until the Adamson Act passed on September 3, 1916 that our modern eight-hour work day was established.
That wouldn’t have happened had not millions of laborers marched in thousands of demonstrations to fight for economic and social justice. It’s a battle we continue today.