This upcoming weekend, people across America will watch parades, attend barbeques and parties, or go on vacation as part of their Labor Day weekend celebrations.
Over what is a three-day weekend for many, these festivities mark the unofficial end of summer.
But why was the Labor Day holiday created? Who and or what is it meant to honor and celebrate? And finally, how have immigrants helped shape this holiday?
Labor Day Honors American Workers
Labor Day was first recognized as a federal holiday by the United States in 1894 and is typically celebrated on the first Monday in September. The holiday was created to honor the contributions and achievements of American workers.
American workers were crucial to turning the U.S. into an industrial and economic leader by the time Labor Day was recognized as a federal holiday. Often subjected to dangerous conditions, long hours, and low pay, these laborers provided the workforce that fueled America’s emergence on the global stage.
However, as the 20th century approached, American workers began to battle against their unenviable working conditions, particularly as they were not enjoying nearly enough of the financial rewards that they were helping to create for the country.
Immigrants Have Played a Major Role in the American Labor Movement
Immigrants made up a considerable chunk of the American workforce, peaking at as high as 40 percent of all laborers between 1880 and 1920. Therefore, it should not be surprising to learn that immigrants also played a significant role in the accomplishments of American workers and the labor movement.
Immigrants drove the movement for labor unions in several arenas. In the 1870s, Irish-American Mary Harris “Mother” Jones emerged as a fiery labor leader, while Eastern European Jewish immigrants formed the International Garment Workers Union in 1900. The constitution for the first construction workers union was published in English, German, and Italian, highlighting the impact of immigration on that industry.
Immigrants contributed significantly to the American labor movement by filling numerous labor positions but also by helping to lead the movement toward greater recognition and treatment of these workers.
Many Labor Day Traditions Started With Immigrants
Not only have immigrants helped win better conditions and recognition for American workers, but they have also impacted how we celebrate Labor Day. Many of the very things Americans do to celebrate the holiday come from immigrants.
Parades are common in America on Labor Day, but they are not an American creation. Instead, the earliest parades can be traced back to ancient Europe, with Americans adopting the practice long after parades originated across the sea.
Much of the food Americans enjoy at this weekend’s barbeques can be traced back to immigrants. Countless burgers, hot dogs, chicken, and other meats will be consumed at Labor Day barbeques, but the practice of grilling meat and serving it to others came from England. Similarly, chips and salsa is featured at American barbeques thanks to Spanish immigrants.
As President Ronald Reagan once said: “We lead the world because, unique among nations, we draw our people — our strength — from every country and every corner of the world. And by doing so we continuously renew and enrich our nation. While other countries cling to the stale past, here in America we breathe life into dreams. We create the future, and the world follows us into tomorrow. “
Visa Business Plans is led by Marco Scanu, a certified coach from the University of Miami with a globally-based practice coaching Fortune 1000 company executives, entrepreneurs, as well as professionals in 4 different continents. Mr. Scanu advises clients on turnaround strategies and crisis management.
Mr. Scanu received a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration (Cum Laude) from the University of Florida and an MBA in Management from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy. Mr. Scanu was also a Visiting Scholar at Michigan State University under the prestigious H. Humphrey Fellowship (Fulbright program) with a focus on Entrepreneurship, Venture Capital, and high-growth enterprises.
At present, Mr. Scanu is the managing partner and CEO at Visa Business Plans, a Miami-based boutique consulting firm providing attorneys and investors with business planning services in the areas of U.S. and Canadian immigration, SBA loans, and others.