Labor Day for many is just the last chance to go to the beach during the summer. But it really is so much more than that. The holiday celebrates our nation’s workers. The workers who built this country.
LABOR DAY HAS SEVERAL CONNECTIONS WITH NEW JERSEY
Labor Day has several connections with the State of New Jersey. For example, President Grover Cleveland first declared it a federal holiday in 1887. President Cleveland was born in Caldwell.
The man who first proposed Labor Day was Matthew Maguire. Maguire was a machinist. He proposed the holiday in 1882. At the time, Maguire served as secretary of a labor union in New York. He later became secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson.
(Interestingly, who first proposed labor day is a matter of controversy. Others credit Peter J. McGuire. He was general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. He also was a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor.)
Many of the great labor battles that eventually resulted in our modern labor laws took place in New Jersey. A particularly noteworthy example was the great Paterson silk mill strike of 1913.
Labor Day should remind us that, before these labor laws were passed, there was no such thing as minimum wage laws. Or laws respecting child labor prohibitions. Or laws concerning worker’s compensation, overtime pay, and unemployment insurance. There was no such thing as OSHA. Indeed, child workers often worked 60+ hours a week, six days a week, for a few cents an hour. They worked in dangerous conditions. They received no overtime pay.
Therefore, Labor Day should remind us not to take labor laws for granted. Things that a society takes for granted may disappear. We must be vigilant, so that these basic worker protections never vanish.
I wish all of my clients and friends a wonderful holiday.