Labor History Month – May 2023

Labor History Month is observed every year in May. It celebrates the achievements of American workers and their struggle to get better rights. May has held a significant space in the American Labor Movement ever since the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago. In 1995 President Clinton proclaimed the month of May as Labor History Month for the first time. It took a massive surge of unionization and work activism in the 1930s to get laws such as the National Labor Relations Act, Social Security Act, Unemployment Insurance Act, and Fair Labor Standards Act enacted to protect the rights of workers.

History of Labor History Month

It took more than a century for the achievement of labor laws to make lives better for workers in America. The roots of trade unions extend deep into the early history of America. In 1620, when pilgrims arrived at Plymouth Rock, the group consisted of several working craftsmen.

Primitive unions of carpenters and cordwainers, cabinetmakers, and cobblers often made an appearance in various cities along the Atlantic seaboard of colonial America. Workers also played a significant role in the struggle for freedom. Carpenters were the host group at the Boston Tea Party in 1773. In 1794, printers were the first to go on strike in New York demanding shorter hours and higher pay. This was followed by cabinet makers in 1786, carpenters in 1797, and cordwainers (shoemakers) in 1799.

By the 1820s, various unions got together to reduce the working hours from 12 to 10 hours and began to show interest in the idea of a federation ﹘ of joining together in pursuit of common objectives for working people. By the mid-19th century, in several cities, unions in various trades joined together and the number of local organizations increased. In Pittsburgh, 1881, the first meeting of worker’s representatives from a few trades and industries was held for the need for a united labor movement. The delegates came from the carpenters, the cigar makers, the printers, merchant seamen, and the steelworkers, as well as from a few city labor bodies, and together they formed the new Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions.

Labor History Month timeline

Mid-1800s
Various Trade Unions Unite

Workers realize the power held by employers and create various trade unions.

1881
First Meeting of Workers

The first meeting of workers takes place, and a new Federation of Organized Trades and Labor Unions is formed.

1886
Haymarket Protest Breaks Out

A peaceful rally at Haymarket is disturbed when a bomb explodes near police guards and violence erupts.

1916
Adamson Act is Passed

Congress passes the Adamson Act and grants eight-hour workdays to railroad employees.

Labor History Month FAQs

What is the history of Labor Day?

Declared a national holiday in 1894, it is celebrated on the first Monday of September.

Why is May 1 Labor Day?

Marxist International Congress, in 1889, passed a resolution that limited work to eight hours a day.

Who started the labor movement?

The Labor movement was started by Samuel Gompers who established the American Federation of Labor.

How to Observe Labor History Month

  1. Attend a local labor music festival

    Enjoy this month and join in with people to appreciate the struggle of workers. Attend a local labor music festival.

  2. Read up the history

    Labor Day has a long and complicated history. Read up about the history and struggle of workers.

  3. Spread the word

    Teach people and make them aware of the situation. Educate them about the struggle and the various rights of workers. And that we should appreciate their sacrifice.

5 Interesting Facts About Labor Day

  1. First parade happened in 1882

    The unions of New York City had a parade to celebrate members in unions and to show support for all unions.

  2. First parade inspired others

    Soon other unions had parades, and by 1887, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Colorado, and Oregon made Labor Day a state holiday.

  3. Labor Day a national holiday

    President Cleveland wanted a federal holiday for workers after the Pullman railroad strike.

  4. The end of hot dog season

    Americans eat about seven billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

  5. National Education Association

    The National Education Association is the biggest union in the U.S. with three million members.

Why Labor History Month is Important

  1. It is a month to celebrate workers

    This month celebrates the zeal of workers and their struggle. It celebrates the hard work of workers to build a safe workforce in the country.

  2. It educates us

    It educates people about the history of labor unions. It explains the struggle and the rights gained.

  3. It appreciates the workers

    This month appreciates the workers and their never-ending support for the country. It appreciates their struggle for better rights.

Labor History Month dates

YearDateDay
2022May 1Sunday
2023May 1Monday
2024May 1Wednesday
2025May 1Thursday
2026May 1Friday
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