Labor Day

"What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures."
- Samuel Gompers, a founder of the American Federation of Labor -


Many people have come to view Labor Day as a three day weekend or extra day off to relax and enjoy family and friends. You may not realize that Labor Day has a much greater significance for those who must work to survive.

First a little history
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 was first celebrated in the United States in 1882 in New York City. It was a dedication to the achievements of American workers. It serves an annual tribute to the working men and women who keep America strong. On June 28, 1894, Congress declared Labor Day a federal holiday, following 23 states and several municipalities, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

For nearly a century, American workers have united to advocate for the compensation, fair treatment and resources to do their jobs effectively. America's labor unions have led the fight for working families.

Today, the fight continues both to retain these rights, to advocate for a living wage, and a safe and healthy workplace.

It is due to a union that you are able to enjoy:

  • Weekends without work
  • Work breaks, including your lunch
  • Paid vacation and holidays
  • Child Labor Laws
  • Widespread Employer-Based Health Benefits and the Family & Medical Leave Act (FMLA)
  • The 8-hour work day and 40-hour work week
  • Overtime pay
  • Sick leave
  • The Minimum wage
  • Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  • Workers’ compensation (workers’ comp)
  • Unemployment insurance
  • Pensions
  • Workplace safety standards and regulations
  • Employer health care insurance
  • Collective bargaining rights for employees
  • Wrongful termination laws
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA)
  • Whistleblower protection laws
  • Privacy rights
  • Pregnancy and parental leave
  • Military leave
  • Public education for children
  • Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 - requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work
  • Laws ending sweatshops in the United States

These are only a few items brought to you by organized labor.

Labor Day Resources and Lesson Plans

US Dept of Labor: History of Labor Day:

Labor Day lessons and Resources:

American Labor Studies Center:

Key Events in Labor History:

Child Labor in America (Grades 6-12)

Child Labor & The Building of America (Grades 9-12)

United We Stand (Grades 8-10)

FEA History



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