Labour Day was born in Canada, in April 1872. The Toronto Trades Assembly organized a parade and rally, calling for the repeal of Canadian legislation that made trade unions illegal. The law decried that “trade unions were criminal conspiracies in restraint of trade.” The purpose of the rally was to have 27 unions demonstrate their support for striking Typographical Union members.
George Brown, who was the editor of the Toronto Globe at that time, used his position and power to gain the support of the police to stop this demonstration, by arresting 24 leaders of the Typographical Union. The legislation was outdated, and largely ignored, but was still on the statute books. It was still the law of the land.
On September 3, that same year, seven Ottawa unions held a parade to protest those arrests. They marched to the home of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald, and got him to climb into a carriage, joining the torchlight parade to Ottawa’s city hall. Sir John A., who was one who never ignored that many voters, promised that his government would “sweep away all such barbarous laws from the statute books.” He delivered on his promise later in the year. That repeal proves that sometimes politicians do keep their promises. The tradition of Labour Day celebrations continues to this day.
In July 1882, Matthew Maguire, labour leader from the United States, suggested not only a parade, but that an annual holiday should be declared for labourers. His suggestion was supported by Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labour. New York State’s first Labour Day celebration was held on Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City. It was at that celebration that the first Monday of September was chosen as an annual holiday in honour of labourers. Oregon, however, was the first state to actually legislate Labour Day as an official holiday, in 1887.
Seven years later, in 1894, the United States Congress passed legislation making the first Monday in September a holiday for the District of Columbia and the territories, and a holiday for all federal workers. By this time 31 states had already passed similar legislation.
It was also in 1894 that the Government of Canada enacted legislation making the first Monday of September a national holiday: Labour Day. The Canadian government had finally caught up with the rest of North America in taking a Canadian idea and making it permanent.
Today, Labour Day is thought most often as the last day of summer. It offers one last long weekend to get out and enjoy ourselves before the kids are back to school and we are back into our regular routines of school or work.
On that day we realize the season for summer activities has come to a close. Suddenly we feel a chill in the morning and evening air. The evenings have already become a little shorter, and autumn is in the air. We always hope for just a few more warm days in the fall.
If you are planning to leave town for the weekend, stay safe and enjoy.
That is my plan.