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Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

Why do we celebrate Labor Day?

Labor Day is a national holiday that was established in 1894. This holiday recognizes the hard work of labor unions and activists who fought for positive changes in the workforce for trade workers, such as the requirement of safe working conditions. While many of us get excited for Labor Day because of the barbecues and celebrations we can have during the customary day off of work, it's important to remember the importance of movements such as the Pullman Strike that helped establish it.

Why do companies honor Labor Day at work?

Companies all around the country honor Labor Day to pay respect to the activists and workers who fought for their rights during the Industrial Revolution. You may be familiar with this period of history due to the technological and industrial advancements that occurred during that time. However, it's important to note that many groups of people experienced intense mistreatment over these years, including immigrants, trade workers, and even children. With the average workday lasting around 12 hours and weekend breaks being a rarity, this period made it exceptionally difficult to maintain the work-life balance we appreciate today.

Before Labor Day became an official holiday, countless people participated in organized protests to bring public light to the challenges they faced in the workforce. For example, the Haymarket Riot of 1886 was a protest that involved violent responses to the mistreatment of workers. The Pullman Strike occurred in 1894, during which workers protested the mistreatment and dismissal of their union representatives and decreased wages that threatened their ability to live.

Today, we celebrate Labor Day to pay respect to the workers before us who worked so hard to gain better working conditions and treatment, much of which we still enjoy. One of the most common ways companies honor the holiday is by giving employees a day off. If you have Labor Day off this year, consider how you can use the time off to remember the brave workers who fought valiantly for progress.

"Companies all around the country honor Labor Day to pay respect to the activists and workers who fought for their rights during the Industrial Revolution."

How to celebrate Labor Day at work

Although many companies give employees the day off on Labor Day, there are many ways to celebrate if you're at work during the holiday. Here are a few ideas you can use to organize a Labor Day celebration at work: 

Plan a potluck barbecue

When you think of Labor Day, you think of barbecues and great food. Even if you're in the office on Labor Day, you can still enjoy the fun of a barbecue by organizing a potluck for your workplace. Invite your coworkers to bring their favorite dish and set aside time in the day for everyone to eat together and enjoy each other's cooking.

Organize a volunteer day

Another great way to honor Labor Day at work is to take time out of the day to complete a volunteer project. This lets you give back to your community or an organization supporting positive labor movements. For example, you might put together care packages for trade workers, such as firefighters or mechanics, and bring them to a nearby workplace to brighten their day. You could also collect supplies for schools or shelters that help people in need, which allows you to help people who can't always help themselves, much like the organizers around the first Labor Day.

Play collaborative games

Games can always bring merriment to a group, especially on a holiday. If you and your team are at work on Labor Day, see if you can take some time to unwind by playing games that promote collaboration and teamwork. For example, you might organize relay races or team-building activities that give everyone a chance to work together and participate in the fun. This honors Labor Day by allowing you and your coworkers to enjoy each other's company and take a well-deserved break from the workday.

Write notes of appreciation

Since Labor Day focuses on celebrating and appreciating workers, a great way to honor the holiday is by showing appreciation to the coworkers you interact with every day. Write handwritten notes to thank your coworkers for their hard work and recognize their accomplishments. If you work remotely, you can also send emails or e-cards to brighten your coworkers' day virtually.

How to raise awareness about Labor Day celebrations at work

There are many ways you can raise awareness about Labor Day celebrations while at work. For example, you might create a bulletin board to showcase the events happening in your community that center around the holiday. If you're interested in volunteering, you could email your coworkers about possible opportunities or create a sign-up sheet that everyone can use to schedule a day to volunteer together. 

Employees who work in human resources may have even more opportunities to promote Labor Day by hosting information sessions or organizing events in the workplace to educate employees about the day's importance. Ensure you also recognize your coworkers for their hard work during this time in keeping with the spirit of the holiday. You can do this by saying a simple "thank you" in person, sending out thank you notes, or finding a way to implement a reward, such as a holiday bonus.

Facts about Labor Day you can share at work 

Here are some quick facts about Labor Day that you can share at work to help your fellow employees learn about the importance of the holiday: 

  • Labor Day always falls on the first Monday in September.
  • The first Labor Day parade was on September 5, 1882, and it involved a parade through New York City containing more than 10,000 workers.
  • Labor Day became a national holiday when President Grover Cleveland signed it into law.
  • The Pullman Strike, which was organized by Eugene V. Debs and helped establish Labor Day, was a nationwide protest.
  • Oregon was the first state to establish Labor Day as an official holiday in 1887.
  • A. Phillip Randolph and Bayard Rustin organized the March on Washington in 1963 to advocate for workers' rights using many of the sentiments that Labor Day promotes.
  • Fans of sports consider Labor Day the unofficial beginning of the NFL season.
  • Labor Day celebrations in the 19th century primarily involved parades, and the festivities have evolved over the years to focus more on activities that people can engage in communally.
  • Many people stick to the rule that you cannot wear white after Labor Day.
  • The two people who organized the first Labor Day parade were Matthew Maguire and Peter McGuire.

Labor Day is an important holiday that recognizes the hard efforts of the workforce. These are just a few reasons why so many companies celebrate Labor Day. If you're in the market for a new job that aligns with your values, CareerBuilder can help. Sign up to get email alerts so our team can alert you about new roles and companies that are hiring.

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