The long weekend gives most Americans a chance to spend time with loved ones one last time before the chill of autumn sets in. However, the significance of Monday's holiday goes much deeper, to the struggle for better working conditions in the 19th century. This holiday's roots are in the American labour movement, for which it was created to show gratitude to hardworking men and women.
The US Department of Labor says Labor Day was first celebrated unofficially in the late 1800s. New York introduced the first labour day bill, but Oregon codified it in 1887. By 1887, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York followed.
Joshua Freeman, a labour historian at the City University of New York, says the holiday began as unions began to strengthen after the 1870s recession. Freeman says two New York City events helped form Labor Day. First, the Central Labor Union was formed as an "umbrella" for trade and ethnic unions. The Knights of Labor held a convention and parade in the city. Many workers couldn't attend because the parade was on a Tuesday in September.
The convention was a success, and unions around the country began celebrating labour on the first Monday of September. "It was a daring move because you could get fired," Freedman said. The United States began recognising the holiday, and employers began giving employees the day off.
Congress didn't name Labor Day until June 28, 1894. Freeman says Grover Cleveland sent in the military to end the Pullman strike. Freeman said Cleveland passed Labor Day legislation just days after the strike ended.