Chicago Grammar School

Labor Day – no class

Sep 3, 2018

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Much of the world celebrates International Labor Day on May Day (May 1) with parades and rallies, but not the United States.  Why do we celebrate with BBQ’s on the first Monday in September and not on May Day?

Here’s the short answer:  May Day’s origins can be traced right here in Chicago, where the Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions mounted a strike on May 1, 1886, as part of its quest for an eight-hour workday.  A couple of days later, during a related labor rally in Haymarket Square, someone threw a bomb, which killed a policeman and touched off deadly riots.  Eventually and controversially, certain radical labor leaders were tried and executed.  Socialist labor leaders in Europe viewed them as martyrs and on the anniversary of the strike, they organized marches in solidarity and commemoration.   Americans wanted to recognize labor too.  President Grover Cleveland, in an election year, wanted to keep the support of labor unions but did not want to align the US with the Socialists.  In searching for a solution he saw that certain unions in New York City had begun celebrating a Labor Day in early September.  He seized that idea and found a way to honor labor without endorsing radicals.  On June 28, 1894, an act of Congress established Labor Day as a federal holiday on the first Monday of September.  Over time this long weekend became the last hurrah of summer, with families getting in that last bit of vacation and BBQ before school would start again.


September 3, 2018