This long Labor Day weekend has been brought to you by the blood, sweat and tears of the labor movement. In the late 1800s, many Americans toiled 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often in physically demanding, low-paying jobs. Children worked too, on farms and in factories and mines. Conditions were often harsh and unsafe. It was in this context that American workers held the first Labor Day parade, marching from New York’s City Hall to a giant picnic at an uptown park on Sept. 5, 1882.
But it took several more years for the federal government to make it a national holiday. In the summer of 1894, the Pullman strike severely disrupted rail traffic in the Midwest, and the federal government used an injunction and federal troops to break the strike. During the crisis, President Grover Cleveland signed a bill into law on June 28, 1894, declaring Labor Day a national holiday.
Today on Foolkiller Folk Mark and Val honor Labor Day with songs about work: coal mining, mill working, railroad working, songs of the sea, white collar work, and, of course, the labor movement itself.