“He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist.” ― Francis of Assisi
For most of us, Labor Day weekend is a time to do anything but labor. Yet the holiday has an interesting history.
In both the United States and Canada, we celebrate Labor or Labour Day each year in September. The day was first proposed in the 1880s, in an era when the labor movement was being developed to represent workers and to campaign for better working conditions.
In 1882, Matthew Maguire, a machinist, first proposed a Labor Day holiday while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York. Some people maintain that it was Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor who first proposed it in May 1882 after seeing the annual labor festival held in Toronto, Canada.
In Canada, Labour Day can be traced back to December 1872 when a parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work-week, which eventually became a centerpiece national labor unions in both countries that advocated for the eight-hour-day movement: eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation and eight hours for rest (at that time, the work week was usually seven days). There was enormous public support for the parade and the authorities could no longer deny the important role that trade unions had to play in Canadian society.
In 1887, Oregon became the first state of the United States to make Labor Day an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, 30 U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day.
In 1908, the first five-day workweek in the United States was instituted by a New England cotton mill to accommodate Jewish workers, who could not work on the Sabbath from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday. In 1926, Henry Ford began shutting down his automotive factories on both Saturday and Sunday. The Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America Union was the first union to demand a five-day workweek and receive it in 1929. The five-day week became uniformly applied in 1940 in the US due to a provision of the 1938 Fair Labor Standards Act mandating a maximum 40-hour workweek, with a two-day weekend.
This Labor Day, we celebrate all the ‘artists’ we are fortunate to work with every day. Be safe and have a joyous celebration.