By Cynthia Steed, September 2, 2021
Labor Day used to be more than a paid day off.
The idea isn’t that new. In 1882, Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, proposed a holiday to honor the working men (because that is what they were at the time) of the United States, according to a history of the holiday by the U.S. Department of Labor. (Although, the same history says that many believe machinist Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, and not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday.)
Trade unions and the labor movement attracted millions of workers in the new urban factories and production plants. On Sept. 5, 1882, the Central Labor Union of New York and the Knights of Labor held a parade of some 10,000 workers. There wasn’t any special reason that date was selected. McGuire proposed that date as falling roughly halfway between the Independence Day holiday and Thanksgiving, two other very American holidays.