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Labor Day 2012

September 3, 2012
A construction worker moves building material.

On September 5, 1882, the Central Labor Union launched the first Labor Day celebration. Emboldened by the country's growing support for unions, thousands of workers gathered to parade and picnic at Wendel’s Elm Park, New York City's largest public park at that time.

"At first [the union was] afraid that the celebration was going to be a failure. Many of the workers in the parade had to lose a day’s pay in order to participate. When the parade began, only a handful of workers were in it, while hundreds of people stood on the sidewalk jeering at them," recounts historian Linda Stinson in an interview with the U.S. Department of Labor. "But then slowly they came – 200 workers and a band from the Jewelers’ Union showed up and joined the parade. Then came a group of bricklayers with another band. By the time they reached the park, it was estimated that there were 10,000 marchers in the parade in support of workers." 

Two years later, in June 1894, Congress adopted the first Monday in September as an official holiday to recognize the contributions - and at times sacrifices - of workers around the country.

In honor of Labor Day, all state offices will be closed today, September 3. If you need assistance, all government agencies will reopen on Tuesday, September 4. 

To learn more about the holiday, read about the controversy surrounding its founder, learn the truth about famed labor icon "Rosie the Riveter", and find out how beer played a role in the first Labor Day festivities.