What Labor Day Really Means

“No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion.”

On Monday, September 6, the country celebrated the Labor Day holiday. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Labor Day, always the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday” on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.

The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From them developed the movement to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887.

During the year 1887 four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

On Labor Day, the National Right to Work Committee (NRTWC) released a statement on what Labor Day really means. According to the statement from NRTWC:

  • This Labor Day, as we celebrate working men and women across the nation, union officials are mounting an unprecedented effort to expand their coercive powers over America’s employees and employers. Their goal is to expand the number of workers forced to pay union dues or fees and accept mandatory union representation just to keep their jobs. Union officials’ ambitious agenda goes beyond the scope of previous years. By their own admission, Big Labor officials are gearing up for their most aggressive midterm election political blitz ever.
  • Throughout the U.S., more than 12 million workers are already compelled to pay union dues as a condition of keeping their jobs. Sadly, many workers feel they have no choice but to pay for labor’s extensive political activities, while others are still unaware of their right to object.
  • American Federation of Labor founder Samuel Gompers’ famous adage that ‘No lasting gain has ever come from compulsion’ is as relevant as ever this Labor Day. This Labor Day, we commend all workers brave enough to stand up to union intimidation, harassment, and even violence as they defend their cherished freedoms. And we look forward to the day when no American is forced to pay tribute to an unwanted union.

To learn more about National Right to Work, please visit the Committee’s website at www.nrtwc.org.