Ames Chamber of Commerce

What is Labor Day and Why Do We Celebrate It?

Posted on 08/28/2019 at 09:00 AM by Guest Writer Guest Writer

Written by: Martha Haas, Public Relations and Marketing Intern for the Ames Chamber of Commerce


     For many workers in America, Labor Day is a paid day off with exceptions such as stores or restaurants. Labor Day marks summer winding down and fall approaching. Across the country, it’s celebrated with picnics, fireworks, barbeques, and sales. While those are fun, there is a greater reason behind why we celebrate. Labor Day is a tribute to American workers who played a major role in the growth and development of our country. We owe this day to those who suffered through unsafe conditions, seven day work weeks, and twelve-hour days on farms, in factories or mines.

     The problems arose because of the abundance of new jobs coming from the Industrial Revolution. There was tons of opportunity due to the improved transportation and new innovations. However, workers were put through brutal and unsafe conditions with no regulations.

     The first Labor Day celebration came two years before the official creation of the holiday. On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers in New York City took unpaid time off for what was the first Labor Day Parade. The fight started long before this parade actually happened.

     After fighting through years of these work conditions, workers began organizing unions around the United States as a way to fight for their rights. These strikes started to turn violent because they weren’t able to reach a compromise between workers and employers. The turning point was the Pullman Strike of 1884. The Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago, a luxury car company, cut their workers’ wages significantly and declined workers’ request to improve conditions.

     In response, The American Railroad Union joined the fight with the workers. They advised businesses to boycott Pullman's products. This harmed transportation around the nation which escalated the situation even more. The situation became so severe the federal government sent troops to Chicago which only escalated the violence.

     Shortly after the strike, Labor Day was officially established by the U.S. as a holiday in 1884. President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day as a federal holiday and working conditions continued to improve throughout the nineteenth century. Everyone across the country has benefited from the fight for better work conditions, and Ames is no exception. We are the home to countless companies and employees who have been able to grow and prosper because of Labor Day.

      If you are someone who has the day off on Monday, take a moment to pause and appreciate the hard fight from laborers to achieve this day. Because of their effort, we are no longer required to work twelve or fourteen-hour days. Use this day as a chance to recharge and prepare for the last quarter of the year.


Cover Photo: We Heart It

Categories: Growing Business

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