Why Labor Day Started and How Its True Meaning is Often Forgotten

Millions of Americans have the day off in observance of the holiday

FARGO, N.D. — Nowadays, Labor Day is the weekend for travel, cookouts and shopping, but journey back 125 years, and you’ll see a different story.

“There was a lot of people that died for labor. There was the Haymarket, you know there were quite a few. The Shirtwaist Triangle factory burned. There was a lot of people that died for labor. Women and children, also,” said ND AFL-CIO President Landis Larson.

Those who lost their lives were fighting for workers’ rights.

“You know, there was 8–hour work day, child labor laws, safety laws, of course, you know, some of the same things we’re fighting for today,” he said.

Those protesters hundreds of years ago paved the way for present day employees to fight for what they need.

“Paid family leave. There’s people that don’t have good insurance, health insurance is a big thing nowadays. Retirement – to be able to retire with dignity is a big thing,” Larson said.

But not everyone has a vacation on Labor Day.

“Labor Day, it’s always kind of that hard decision because I’d love a day off just like everybody else but then at the same time, we want to try and be here for our customers, or for new customers to come discover us,” said Boots & Heels owner Amber Sander.

Business owners like Sander have a choice.

“The decision for it solely does rely on me, which is kind of hard because I’d like a day off again, just like anyone else, but then, you know, there’s some factors just to make sure that you test and see and, as an entrepreneur, that’s just kind of what you have to do,” she said.

And while most government and city employees are out of the office, restaurants, malls and big corporations remain open.

But no matter if you have the day off or not, some say we must remember what the holiday stands for.

“It’s a way to celebrate what the labor movement has given us through the years, but it’s also a reminder that we have a lot of work to do yet. There’s more to go,” said Larson.

Labor Day was made a federal holiday by President Grover Cleveland in 1894.

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