Robert L. DilenschneiderRobert L. Dilenschneider

“All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.”
--Martin Luther King, Jr.

The US celebrates Labor Day today and the contributions of American workers.

There is disagreement about who actually proposed Labor Day as a holiday. Some say it was Peter J. McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. Others claim it was Matthew Maguire, a machinist.

The first Labor Day was on September 5, 1882, when some 10,000 workers marched in New York City. However, Oregon was the first, followed by Colorado, New York, Massachusetts and New Jersey to declare the day a state holiday.

That celebration inspired similar events across the country, and by 1894 more than half the states were observing a “workingmen’s holiday” on one day or another. In June of that year, President Grover Cleveland signed legislation designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.

Americans worked 12-hour days, sometimes seven days a week, during the 19th century. The Adamson Act was passed on September 3, 1916, establishing an eight-hour work day.

Since President Trump took office the economy has added 3.2 million jobs and unemployment has fallen to the lowest level in 18 years.

The number of manufacturing jobs increased over the past 17 months to 344,000 following a net decrease of 192,000 during the previous administration. Total nonfarm employment increased by more than 3.2 million.

The number of wage and salary workers belonging to unions in 2017 was 14.8 million, up by 262,000 from 2016. The largest union in the U.S. today is the National Education Association of the United States, with 2,731,419 members.

Though no longer strictly adhered to, the tradition of not wearing white after Labor Day dates back to the late Victorian Era, when it was customary for the well-to-do to wear lighter, whiter outfits at cottages or cabins during the summer. This wardrobe was no longer worn on returning to the City after Labor Day.

There is still a Labor Day parade in New York City, which takes place on Fifth Avenue starting at 44th Street, 20 blocks north of the 1882 labor march.

Enjoy Labor Day and get ready for the fall.


Robert L. Dilenschneider is founder and chairman of The Dilenschneider Group, a global public relations and communications consulting firm headquartered in New York City. The former CEO of Hill and Knowlton, Inc., he is also author of more than a dozen books, including the best-selling “Power and Influence.”