According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, “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.” (www.dol.gov/opa/aboutdol/laborday.html)
Controversy surrounds the question of who first proposed such a holiday but it is a fact that the first Labor Day celebrated in the United States was on September 5, 1882 in New York City. Slowly gaining recognition, the first law for a Labor Day holiday was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887, followed by Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania. During 1894, 23 more states passed similar laws and finally Congress enacted legislation, June 28, 1894, making the first Monday in September a national Labor Day holiday.
The first proposal for the holiday contained language that outlined the celebration form to be a street parade followed by a festival for the workers and their families. The significance of the parade was to show a public display of the strength and spirit of the trade and labor organizations. This parade/festival format has been the main framework of celebrations since 1894. Speeches by prominent people have been added to the celebratory tradition as have picnics, barbecues, and fireworks.
The American Federation of Labor convention of 1909 adopted the Sunday preceding this holiday to be Labor Sunday and it was dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.
Around the world, similar Labor Day holidays are celebrated at different times of the year in Australia, Canada, Jamaica, New Zealand, Trinidad and Tobago, to name a few. All Labor Day holidays were created to celebrate the social and economic achievements of workers and all had their origins in the labor union movement which gave workers, among other things, the 8 hour work day (8 hours for work, 8 hours for recreation, 8 hours for rest.)
(This posting created from the Internet sources at www.dol.gov; en.wikipedia.org)