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What's Happening On Labor Day?

Just what does Labor Day mean and how did it get started?

Monday's "workingman's holiday" means a chance to celebrate and enjoy the community, honor our workers, and take advantage of big sales at stores.

Most schools and government offices will close their doors for the first Monday of September as the United States marks Labor Day, a holiday which has come to mean different things since it was first celebrated Sept. 5, 1882 in New York.

Larkspur City Hall, Corte Madera Town Hall, Redwood High School, the Larkspur Corte Madera School District and all Marin County libraries will be closed Monday.

American Legion Post 313 in downtown Larkspur welcomes the community to enjoy its annual picnic, with hot dogs, hamburgers, potato salad and fun. The Labor Day event, 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., will be preceded by a informational meeting about veterans' benefits and joining the American Legion, which starts at 9:30 a.m.

The U.S. Department of Labor offers the following history of Labor Day:

Labor Day: How it Came About; What it Means

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

Founder of Labor Day

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

A Nationwide Holiday

The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take were outlined in the first proposal of the holiday — a street parade to exhibit to the public "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.

The character of the Labor Day celebration has undergone a change in recent years, especially in large industrial centers where mass displays and huge parades have proved a problem. This change, however, is more a shift in emphasis and medium of expression. Labor Day addresses by leading union officials, industrialists, educators, clerics and government officials are given wide coverage in newspapers, radio, and television.

The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pay tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation's strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.

Tracy August 30, 2012 at 10:41 PM
The annual Labor Day picnic at the American Legion of Honor is always a fun way to spend the afternoon.
Rocky August 30, 2012 at 10:58 PM
Thanks for explaining the meaning of Labor Day. I knew it had significance, just not sure what it was.
Haggis August 31, 2012 at 12:09 AM
Labor unions have taken quite a bashing in the recent past for having led astray the brightest management minds in America, forcing them to sign expensive and foolish contracts. This weekend we might remember that our post WWII prosperity was courtesy largely of American workers led by their unions. I, for one am grateful.

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