You know it as a day off—a day to relax, probably grill out, maybe take a short road trip or save money on appliances or back-to-school sales. But Labor Day—the first Monday in September—celebrates the accomplishments of American industry. Labor Day became a federal holiday in 1894, a time when the impact of the Industrial Revolution was manifesting itself in labor strikes and rallies—workers coming together to demand safer and more humane working conditions with better pay. The late 19th century and early 20th century was a crucial time for establishing laws that regulated labor—from banning child labor to restricting the number of hours in a work day. (Read more about the history of Labor Day and the labor movement here and here.)
While conditions for American workers have drastically improved since the 1894, the U.S. Department of Labor is still working toward “building a shared prosperity for a stronger America”, focusing on the following topics:
- A fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work: Increasing the national minimum wage and providing overtime protection;
- Providing a path to get ahead: Providing education and training for middle-class employment;
- A job with family values: Balancing work–home life;
- A chance to succeed no matter where you start: Helping underserved, at-risk, and recently incarcerated individuals find employment; and
- A voice in the workplace: Empowering workers to speak up about their needs.
So this Monday, while you’re enjoying the national holiday, think about how far we’ve come as a nation of workers, and look ahead to an even stronger workforce that celebrates equality and American values.