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Labor Day

The True Origins of Labor Day

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Labor Day! Most of us consider the upcoming three-day weekend as the perfect excuse to get out of town or relax in the hammock. Kids know it as their last bit of freedom before school starts (well, the lucky kids that haven’t gone back to school yet). And, according to the fashion-conscious, it’s the last chance to wear white.
But, like so many holidays, the origins of Labor Day are rooted in adversity, not pleasure and relaxation. While the day now stands for the official end of the summer, it was once a concession given to the thousands of laborers who struggled for fair pay, benefits, and improved living conditions in our country.
It all started when John P. Altgeld, the former Governor of Illinois, received a letter from the citizens of Pullman, a business-owned community for employees of the Pullman Palace Car Company. Due to the poor economy, the demand for Pullman’s products (they made railway cars), dropped significantly. In response, Company owner George Pullman cut wages for his employees, including the ones living in the town bearing his name. Despite the cut, the workday was increased (employees worked an average of 16 hours a day) and the price of rent and food in town remained extremely high- too high, in fact, for the workers to afford.
Most of the workers protested and eventually went on strike, but their employee refused to budge. In desperation, the citizens of Pullman sent Governor Altgeld this letter: Read More