In 1894, when Labor Day became a national holiday, the President of the United States, Grover Cleveland, was the only Democrat to hold the highest office in the land (twice) between the years of 1860 to 1912, a half-century of Republican Party political domination.
Legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through the 53rd U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Cleveland (before Congress went on a “labor day” recess).
The inspiration and incentive for the creation of the national holiday was a labor strike, the 1893 Pullman Strike triggered by the railroad car company’s laying off of hundreds of employees—as it happens, a result of a dire economic downturn in the country.
Rioting, plundering and setting fire to railroad cars by unemployed union workers was matched by rioting, plundering and setting fire by mobs of non-union workers.
Seeking to quell the destruction and calm the fury, the leaders of the Central Labor Union of New York City proposed a labor’s day and saluted it with a parade and picnic. That they probably “borrowed” the idea from Canada might disturb today’s xenophobes, but no three-day-weekender from the Hamptons to Hawaii would object.
In addition to being a Federal holiday, a District of Columbia and U.S. Territories holiday, Labor Day is a State Holiday in all the 50 U.S. States. Can you imagine all 50 states agreeing on anything?
And that’s the end of my labor today.