Ever wonder where and when Labor Day began and what it represents?
It began as an annual celebration of workers and their achievements, originated during one of American labor history’s most trying times. But today, Labor Day has become more of a celebration of family and fun in cities and towns across the United States with parades, picnics, barbecues, firework displays and other public gatherings.
For many Americans, particularly children and young adults, it also represents the end of the summer and the start of the back-to-school season. In ministry, it means a jump back into routine of many small groups, bible studies, new Sunday school classes, and a more consistent attendance after the proverbial Summer lull. A break in the midst of transitioning seasons.
In the late 1800s, at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the United States, the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks in order to make a basic living. Despite restrictions in some states, children as young as 5 or 6 toiled in mills, factories and mines across the country, earning a fraction of their adult counterparts’ wages. People of all ages, particularly the very poor and recent immigrants, often faced extremely unsafe working conditions, with insufficient access to fresh air, sanitary facilities and breaks.
As manufacturing took over agriculture as the main demand of American employment, labor unions, grew more prominent and vocal. They began organizing strikes and rallies to protest poor conditions and compel employers to renegotiate hours and pay.
For you History buffs, see if you remember hearing about any of these infamous events that paved the way to this Holiday we celebrate today:
On September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers took unpaid time off to march from City Hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first Labor Day parade in U.S. history.
On May 11, 1894, employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company in Chicago went on strike to protest wage cuts and the firing of union representatives.
On June 26, the American Railroad Union, led by Eugene V. Debs, called for a boycott of all Pullman railway cars, crippling railroad traffic nationwide. To break the strike, the federal government dispatched troops to Chicago, unleashing a wave of riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers.
In the wake of this massive unrest and in an attempt to repair ties with American workers, Congress passed an act making Labor Day a legal holiday.
Just as America needed this time of rest, we're reminded in Scripture of the significance of resting in the Lord:
"For anyone who enters God's rest also rests from their works, just as God did from His." - Hebrews 4:10
"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven." - Ecclesiastes 3:1
Our hope for you today and this week, is that this Labor Day would be a reminder that both rest and transition is good, it's biblical, and it's needed. Make time for it. Prioritize it. Embrace it. Enjoy it :)