In years past, Labor Day has always marked a special transition in American life—summer vacations are over, everyone’s back on the job, a new school year’s beginning, fall weather is approaching, the baseball season is down to the wire and the football season is just underway.
This year because of the pandemic all is different.
It is still not clear how soon work and school life can return completely to normal, or how safe it will be to enjoy activities like movies, theater, concerts, restaurants and sporting events.
But this much we can be certain of: First, on this Labor Day as on all others, we will celebrate the men and women whose labor built our great country. Working people are the sinews, the heart and the soul of America, and we must never forget that.
Second, Americans are the most resourceful, resilient and enterprising people on Earth, and so whatever lies ahead in the coming weeks and months, our nation is going to emerge stronger than ever. We have been, and continue to be, the greatest nation in the world, and no pandemic is going to change that.
Even as we look to the future, it’s always fascinating to look back in history to learn how Labor Day got started and what it has meant to the nation:
- The first U.S. Labor Day was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, planned by the Central Labor Union. About 10,000 workers took unpaid leave and marched uptown from City Hall past Union Square and across 42nd Street to end up in a park at 92nd Street and Ninth Avenue for a concert, speeches and a picnic.
- In February 1887, Oregon became the first state to declare Labor Day an official holiday.
- Later that same year, four more states—New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Colorado—passed similar laws.
- By the end of the decade Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Nebraska had followed suit.
- On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday. President Grover Cleveland signed it into law.
- Labor Day is considered the unofficial National Football League season kickoff. Traditionally, the NFL plays its opening game on the first Thursday after Labor Day, and that will be true again this year when the Dallas Cowboys meet the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Thursday, September 9.
Our best wishes to you and all of yours for a happy and safe Labor Day 2021.
Robert L. Dilenschneider is the Founder and CEO of The Dilenschneider Group, an international communications firm that provides strategic advice and counsel to Fortune 500 companies and leading families and individuals in fields ranging from mergers and acquisitions, to crisis communications, to marketing, government affairs and foreign media.