September 5, 2011 - Labor Day

– U.S.

Yi-i-ikes! Did you know that Labor Day became a federal holiday just after some striking railroad workers were killed by U.S. military and U.S. Marshals? Sadly, 13 workers died, and 57 were wounded.

The military and Marshals were used to break up the strikes because some violence and destruction had broken out – such as strikers setting buildings on fire and derailing a locomotive. In all, a relatively small number of the striking workers did an estimated $340,000 worth of property damage – which would be, in today's terms, almost nine million dollars!

The first big Labor Day parade in NYC, 1882.
Labor Day was created as a holiday to honor workers. It falls on the first Monday in September. Many other nations hold labor observances in early September, and International Workers' Day is commonly held around the world on May 1. The first big Labor Day in the U.S. was in on this day in 1882, but after the 1894 Pullman Strike and its violent conclusion, Congress made Labor Day an official nationwide holiday.

To learn about labor unions – how they work, why they have been necessary, and some of the history of labor unions – try the articles on How Stuff Works

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