Labor day

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Labor Day Parade, Union Square, New York, 1882 ( lithograph )

The Labor Day is a day of remembrance of the labor movement . Since 1894 it has been celebrated as a public holiday in the USA and Canada (here as Labor Day ) on the 1st Monday in September .

It corresponds to the Labor Day on May 1 in many countries and the Labor Day in English-speaking countries. In the UK and Ireland which is Labor Day on May 1, not a public holiday in Australia and New Zealand which is Labor Day by law, but celebrated at different dates.


The roots and idea of ​​Labor Day go back to 1882 in the United States of America and have their origins in the eight-hour day movement of previous decades. On the basis of this movement, among other things, in May 1882 in the Central Labor Union , a Lodge of the Knights of Labor , the idea of organizing a " Monster Labor Festival " arose in which every worker should have the opportunity to participate. The origins and authorship of Labor Day are still described quite differently in American history books (see note below ). In any case, the fact is that the Central Labor Union accepted a proposal to hold a demonstration and public holiday for workers, founded a committee for the organization and implementation, sent 20,000 invitation cards in June, i.e. 3 months beforehand, and the demonstration followed by a picnic on the 5th September 1882 in New York City , now known as Labor Day. The number of those involved in the demonstration ranges from at least 10,000 to 30,000, depending on the information.

At the folk festival-like picnic in Elm Park that followed, almost 50,000 people were said to have turned the day into a powerful demonstration. The tradition of combining political speeches, demonstrations and celebrations on Labor Day began here on September 5, 1882.

Whoever had the first idea to plan and hold a memorial, demonstration and public holiday for workers - Labor Day was on everyone's lips by this day at the latest and the now high level of awareness demanded implementation. So the idea spread more and more and it was implemented in around 400 cities in the country as early as 1889.

This memorable day was not just the work of a few individual people - its successful introduction and establishment as a holiday was the work of thousands of workers and trade unionists around the world who, through the eight-hour day movement and its demonstrations, laid the groundwork and the preparations for Labor Day. The continuity in the struggle for the eight-hour day, starting with the programmatic idea and development by the Welsh entrepreneur and social reformer Robert Owen between 1830 and 1834 through to the use of the labor movement over five decades, sparked the necessary awareness in the workforce and provided the impetus the energy to make Workers' Day a permanent fixture in society.

In 1889, at the International Socialist Congress in Paris , it was decided to let Workers' Day take place all over the world on May 1st in commemoration of the riots known as the Haymarket Riot . As a result, May 1st was declared Labor Day in most countries of the world, but especially in socialist countries.

Labor Day (table)

country Labor Day today on first on first legally on Ref.
United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom 1st of May 1880s - no public holiday -
IrelandIreland Ireland 1st of May - no public holiday -
United StatesUnited States United States 1st Monday in September
Labor Day
September 5, 1882 September 3, 1894
according to the decision of the Congress of June 28, 1894
CanadaCanada Canada 1st Monday in September April 15, 1872 July 23, 1894
AustraliaAustralia Australia October 6th (Capital Territory)
October 6th (New South Wales)
1st Monday in May (Northern Territory) - May Day called
1st Monday in May (Queensland)
October 6th (South Australia)
March 10th (Tasmania) - Eight Hours Day called
March 10 (Victoria)
March 3 (Western Australia)
May 12, 1856 Eight Hour Day April 18, 1879
and renamed Labor Day in 1934
New ZealandNew Zealand New Zealand 4th Monday in October October 28, 1890 2nd Wednesday in October 1900
to the 4th Monday in accordance with the Labor Day Act of 1899 1910

Labor Day (country-specific)

United Kingdom

Even if the labor movement had its origins in England at the time of the Industrial Revolution and Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto in London , Labor Day based on the American or German model still does not seem to be able to assert itself in the political public. May 1st is not a public holiday in the UK to this day.

Labor Day has been celebrated with demonstrations in London since the mid-1880s. Largely ignored by the government and the media, the trade union movement has been continuously trying - but so far unsuccessfully - to enforce May 1st as a public holiday for employees since the 1970s. To take the pressure off the movement, after granting a first public holiday in 1978, the government gave way with another bank holiday (the first Monday in May in England, Wales and Northern Ireland and the last Monday in May in Scotland ), so that in United Kingdom now the first and last Mondays in May are day off for workers. Both holidays (Early May Bank Holiday and Spring Bank Holiday) have nothing in common with Labor Day in terms of content.

May Day is also celebrated as May Day in both the United Kingdom and Ireland with some traditional festivals ( Beltane Festival ), rites and dances ( Morris Dance ).


Ireland also has no statutory Labor Day holiday to this day. The Irish government also introduced an additional public holiday on the first Monday in May with the regulation of the Holidays (Employees) Act, 1973 in 1993. As in the UK, the movement's additional public holiday to include a Workers' Day on May 1st should take its toll.

United States of America

Labor Day in the United States, which is always celebrated on the first Monday in September, has been a public holiday since 1894 and is traced back to the eight-hour day campaigns of the American labor movement. The Knights of Labor, founded in 1869, which rose from 1879 under Terence Vincent Powderly to what was then the largest national trade union organization at the time, took over the campaign and spokesman for the decades-long struggle to introduce the eight-hour day from 1884. On the basis of this long-standing movement, the first impressive Labor Day demonstration of the labor movement took place in 1882 (see above).

For most Americans and Canadians, Labor Day now also marks the end of summer and the travel season. Beaches and destinations are once again overcrowded with people who want to enjoy the last long summer weekend.


In Canada, the tradition of Labor Day is assigned to April 15, 1872, where in Toronto some 10,000 workers demonstrated under the title " Workingman's Demonstration " for the abolition of a law which criminalized the trade unions as conspiratorial organizations.

On July 23, 1894, Labor Day was made a national holiday by the Canadian government and, as in the USA, set to the first Monday in September.


The origins of Labor Day in Australia are often traced back to the first successful demonstrations on the eight-hour day in Sydney in 1855 and in Melbourne in 1856 . The first Labor Day demonstration, which Australia is happy to claim, took place on March 16, 1861 in Brisbane , Queensland with a handful of construction workers who had previously successfully enforced the eight-hour day. In 1889 the attempt to place Labor Day in March on May 1, proposed by the International Socialist Congress in Paris, failed. Finally, in 1893, Labor Day and the eight-hour demonstration were put on the 1st Monday in May. The individual federal states of Australia could not agree among themselves, so that Labor Day is still celebrated on quite different days in Australia.

New Zealand

In New Zealand in 1840 Samuel Duncan Parnell (1810–1890) initiated an eight-hour day movement that 50 years later led to the Jubilee March and the first legally protected Labor Day in 1890. A year earlier, in 1899, the Labor Day Act of 1899 created the legal basis for this. But the first Labor Day demonstrations had already been held nine years earlier in October and November 1889 in major cities across the country.


When it comes to the question of who invented Labor Day and thus can assign its historical merit, there are still different perspectives today, depending on the interests. The situation is also confusing because the two actors to whom the merit is assigned by the respective sides have a similar name with McGuire and Maguire.

Peter J. McGuire (1852–1906) is still persistently named by the American Federation of Labor as the father and inventor of Labor Day. The Library of Congress also continues to take this view uncritically, whereas meanwhile quite a few sources, such as u. a. the US Department of Labor , at least to reflect the contradiction in the historical accounts.

According to more recent sources, Peter J. McGuire must have only been a speaker on the first Labor Day on September 5, 1882 and publicly claimed the authorship for himself in 1897, whereas Matthew Maguire, as Secretary of the Central Labor Union of New York, the author and Is said to have been the organizer of the first Labor Day.

The assignments of who worked for which union for this event are also quite confused. The fact is that the Central Labor Union organized Labor Day. But even in the various sources, the Central Labor Union is once assigned to the Knights of Labor and another time to the American Federation of Labor. The confusion becomes understandable if you consider the competitive situation between the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor in those years and assume that the Central Labor Union of New York was originally a lodge of the Knights of Labor and after its collapse came under the umbrella of the American Federation of Labor with some local branches.


  • Norman J. Ware : The Labor Movement in the United States 1860-1895 (A Study in Democracy) . Vintage Books , Toronto 1929 (English).
  • Geoffrey Scott : Labor Day . Carolrhoda Books , Minneapolis 1982, ISBN 0-87614-178-5 (English).
  • Bert Roth : Days of Action, May Day, Eight Hour Day, Labor Day . Trade Union History Projec , Wellington 1990, ISBN 0-473-00963-3 (English).
  • John Rogers Commons : History of labor in the United States . The Macmillan Company , New York 1918, OCLC 490573747 (English).

Web links

Commons : Labor Day  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Richard P. Hunt : The First Labor Day . In: American Heritage Publishing Company (Ed.): American Heritage . Volume 33, Issue 5 , August / September, 1982 (English, online [accessed December 2, 2015]).
  2. ^ A b Geoffrey Scott : Labor Day . Carolrhoda Books , Minneapolis 1982, ISBN 0-87614-178-5 (English).
  3. ^ Labor Day 2005 - Machinist Created the First Labor Day . The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers , September 2, 2005, archived from the original December 8, 2015 ; accessed on April 25, 2019 (English, original website no longer available).
  4. LABOR DAY: HOW IT CAME ABOUT; WHAT IT MEANS . US Diplomatic Mission to Germany , August 2010, accessed November 25, 2015 .
  5. a b c History Of Labor Day . ChristiaNet , accessed December 2, 2015 .
  6. a b Peter J. McGuire (1852-1906) . AFL-CIO - America's Unions , accessed September 21, 2012 .
  7. Glossary . United States Department of Labor , accessed December 2, 2015 .
  8. a b London May Day . London May Day Organizing Committee , accessed December 2, 2015 .
  9. ^ A b History of Labor Day . United States Department of Labor , accessed September 4, 2017 .
  10. ^ The History of Labor Day . Archived from the original on September 13, 2007 ; accessed on December 2, 2015 (English, original website no longer available).
  11. ^ Australian School Holidays & Public Holidays . Australian Travel & Tourism Network , 2015, accessed February 21, 2015 .
  12. ^ Labor Day - Introduction . In: New Zealand History . Ministry for Culture & Heritage , August 5, 2014, accessed December 2, 2015 .
  13. Historical Note . Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS) , 2008, accessed December 2, 2015 .
  14. SI No. 91/1993 - Holidays (Employees) Act, 1973 (Public Holiday) Regulations, 1993. . In: Irish_Statute_Book . Office of the Attorney General , accessed December 2, 2015 .
  15. ^ Norman J. Ware : The Labor Movement in the United States 1860–1895 (A Study in Democracy) . Vintage Books , Toronto 1929 (English).
  16. Michael J. Friedman : Labor Day Marks Appreciation of America's Workers . Department of State (USA) , September 2, 2010, accessed December 2, 2015 .
  17. ^ Labor Day . Canada Info , accessed December 2, 2015 .
  18. ^ History - Big Day Out . Workers Online , accessed December 2, 2015 .
  19. ^ Labor Day - A brief History . (PDF 81 kB) Queensland Teachers Union , archived from the original on April 4, 2012 ; accessed on December 2, 2015 (English, original website no longer available).
  20. ^ Bert Roth : Days of Action, May Day, Eight Hour Day, Labor Day . Trade Union History Projec , Wellington 1990, ISBN 0-473-00963-3 (English).
  21. Today in History: September 5 - The First Labor Day . The Library of Congress , January 20, 2011, accessed December 2, 2015 .
  22. ^ Labor Day . The History Channel , accessed September 21, 2012 .
  23. ^ Labor Day - Origins and Early History of the Peoples' Holiday . Mill Valley Lodge NO. 356 , archived from the original on February 16, 2013 ; accessed on November 29, 2015 (English, original website no longer available).
  24. Grace-Ellen McCrann : Matthew Maguire, Father of Labor Day? . The New Jersey Historical Society , August 23, 2000, accessed April 25, 2019 .
  25. Ted Watts : First Labor Day Parade . The Illinois Labor History Society , archived from the original on May 14, 2008 ; accessed on September 21, 2012 (English, original website no longer available).