The first one was celebrated in Oregon February 21, 1887. Thirty states already celebrated it as it became a federal holiday in 1894. I’m talking about Labor Day. A machinist named Matthew Aguire is said to have first proposed the holiday when he was secretary of the Central Labor Union (CLU) in New York in 1882. There seems to be a dispute as to whether he actually was the first to propose it. A man with a similar sounding name, Peter J . McGuire, is thought to have proposed Labor Day as a holiday in May 1882 while he was a member of the American Federation of Labor (AF of L).
It all came to a head when workers were killed in a scuffle with the US military and the US Marshals during the famous Pullman strike. The proclamation making Labor Day a federal holiday was signed by then President Grover Cleveland just under a week after the deadly strike ended. The bill was rushed through and approved quickly by the US Congress.
May first had been International Workers’ Day since the Haymarket Affair that occurred in Chicago on May 4,1886. President Cleveland didn’t want the US celebration to be connected to the Communist supported May Day Labor Celebration, so the Labor Day holiday was set for the first Monday in September.
Over the years Labor Day has marked the last big weekend of the summer. Students return to school in many areas just before or soon after the holiday and stores celebrate with big sales every year to commemorate the day and increase their profits. Families have picnics and to celebrate and so do organizations. This year’s picnic at Jack B. Lively Park in Springfield, behind the “Splash!” swim center at 6100 Thurston Road, was sponsored by the Lane County Central Labor Council assisted by the Eugene-Springfield Solidarity Network, Jobs with Justice (ESSN), The Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) – American Federation of Teachers (AFT) local 6732, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) who were in charge of Bar-B-Quing the hamburgers, hotdogs, and veggie burgers, and cooking the corn-on-the-cob. Picnickers brought their own favorite dishes to pass. The family-friendly event features live music, door prizes, Labor Recognition Awards, and speeches by local dignitaries. Local politicians attend the gathering to “press-the-flesh” with their constituents, show their support for the unions, and gain the support of the union members to get themselves re-elected. Other Labor Day picnics were being held at the same time in Portland, Astoria, Bend, Central Point, North Bend/Coos Bay, and Salem.
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