Labor Day is a day for honoring America’s workers and celebrating their contributions to everything we cherish about our country. The holiday is rooted in the vibrant labor movement of the late 19th century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize how ordinary workers from coast to coast built America’s strength, prosperity, and wellbeing.

In the beginning, labor activists called for wider recognition, with parades, picnics, and speeches. The first recorded celebration of this kind took place on Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City. The Central Labor Union organized a day of street parades, picnics, and parties to exhibit the strength and camaraderie of the trade and labor organizations in the community. The practice spread quickly across the nation. In 1887, only five years later, Oregon became the first U.S. state to make Labor Day an official public holiday. By 1894, 30 states were officially celebrating Labor Day.

Congress acted to make Labor Day a federal holiday to be celebrated the first Monday in September. On June 28, 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the bill into law. Though the law only made Labor Day an official holiday for federal workers, over time the holiday spread to all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. It now applies to all state and local government employees. Private employers generally recognize the day as a holiday too. Working people are the backbone of our country and keep our economy moving.

It’s the U.S. Department of Labor’s great privilege to carry on the spirit of those 19th century laborers who created Labor Day by celebrating and lifting up the contributions and importance of America’s workers.

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