Now that Labor Day has passed, hopefully everyone has had sufficient reprieve from the gruel and grind of working. But do you understand why we have this deserved holiday devoted to the laboring people of this country? Few may actually know the history behind the holiday, and why it was essential that it came to be.
Meaning Behind The Holiday
Labor day is a holiday, which celebrates the hard work and achievements of the workforce that is made up by Americans. Other countries have different names for their “labor day” but they all have the same meaning in mind.
Originally, Labor Day was born from the labor union movement, which started in the late 1890s and early 1900s. More importantly however, it started with the eight-hour day movement, which fought for eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for resting. A healthy balance which, rather, people were normally working long and arduous hours in those times. A normal working day could consist and range from 10 – 16 hours a day, for 6 days in a row.
Eight-Hour Day Movement
This at the time was also known as the 40-hour week movement or the short time movement. It all started in Great Britain during their Industrial revolution. In the early 1800s, large industrial factories made workers labor for long hours, and under terribly unsafe conditions. This was especially horrific because child labor was both frequently used and common among most factories.
Though Robert Owen raised awareness and started the movement in 1817, it wasn’t for many decades that they were actually and finally accepted. The movement took off sooner in some countries over others. In 1847, the women and children of England were allowed the 10-hour workday. The French workers were allowed the 12-hour workday after the revolution of 1848.
For Americans, it wasn’t until around the 1880s that workers were granted the 8-hour workday after strikes were organized and production halted for certain companies. Though, it wasn’t until 1937 when the Fair Labor Standards Act was passed under the New Deal. The act covered industries whose total employment represented about 20% of the U.S labor force. In those industries, there was a maximum of 40 hours that needed to be worked in a workweek, with any extra work being paid overtime and bonus salaries.
Let’s Put It In Perspective
Hopefully this past Labor Day was well spent with friend and loved ones. Offering a moment to catch your breath before returning to work. Though, hopefully no one considered this day to be a celebration of our hard work. The day is supposed to celebrate how easy we have it now compared to our ancestors. The hardships they had to endure, which most of us couldn’t even comprehend these days. The sacrifices they made, and all that they strove for and achieved for the sake of posterity.
The next time you wake up in the morning and moan and groan about going to work, whether in the office, restaurant, or delivery truck. Just remember exactly how easy we have it. 14-hour workdays, 6 days a week, with little pay and terribly unsafe working conditions used to be the norm. Now, we have paid holidays, company outings, HR departments, and even unemployment if we get laid off.
Our predecessors would scoff at us for complaining about having a long day. They literally risked life and limb to make a living. They slaved away in sweatshops as children, and fought against black lung working in the mines. When you hear of what they had to endure, for some reason we still can’t believe they had to walk to school, both ways up hill, with two left foot shoes on. Who knows, perhaps that was their way of reminiscing, reminiscing about how good it was before they actually had to work. And who could blame them… seeing every successive generation growing up weaker and more complacent. The common saying “they just don’t make them like they used to” makes quite a but of sense here.
So I hope you all had a wonderful Holiday, and gathered your well-deserved rest. Because it is deserved, it’s been owed to workers for a long time, so we had better enjoy it the best we can to show our respects for those before us.
The author of this article is Damien S. Wilhelmi, an SEO tactician and SEM strategist. If you enjoyed this piece, you can follow me on twitter @FacePalmLaw. If you have suffered an accident on the job, and are seeking a workers compensation attorney, be sure to find both an experience and trusted attorney.