us

Labor Day: Its history and meaning

By CNN Staff

Published August 27, 2020

Gabriele Holtermann-Gorden/Sipa USA via AP

What is it?

The patriotic holiday celebrated on the first Monday of September honors the American labor movement and workers who helped build the country and keep it strong.

Nuno Da Silva/Instagram

It should not be confused with Veteran’s Day or Memorial Day, which are holidays that honor veterans and fallen service members.

MARK RALSTON/AFP/Getty Images

Although the US honors workers in September, most countries celebrate them on May Day.

ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

For many Americans, Labor Day also marks the end of summer. (Even though summer actually doesn't end until September 22.)

Thinkstock

Many people celebrate with parades, visits to the beach and cookouts. But there's a lot more to Labor Day.

Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images

What are the origins of Labor Day?

Scholars don’t agree on who had the idea for creating a holiday to honor workers. It was proposed in the early 1880s by either Peter McGuire of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners Union or Matthew Maguire of the International Association of Machinists, according to the US Department of Labor.

Ronald Martinez/Getty Images North America/Getty Images

  • New York City held its first Labor Day parade on Sept. 5, 1882. It’s estimated that 10,000 workers participated.

  • In 1887, Oregon became the first state to make Labor Day an official holiday.

Getty Images/File

President Grover Cleveland and the US Congress made it a national holiday in 1894.

National Archives/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

As of July 2020, there were more than 159 million workers in the US' civilian labor force, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Photo Illustration/Shutterstock