Looking back: How Labor Day became a national holiday

High winds bulow the American flag flying over Rio Norte Junior High School in Valencia on Friday, Dec. 2, 2016. Dan Watson/Signal

For over a century, Americans have celebrated the first Monday of September as Labor Day, though the celebrations of today differ from when the holiday was first observed.

During America’s industrial revolution, workers would punch in 12-hour shifts, seven days a week in often physically demanding careers. Even children were employed to do jobs that didn’t pay very much. This led to a march on New York City Hall ending in a large picnic uptown on Sept. 5, 1882, according to articles of the era from The New York Times with the headline “Working Men on Parade.”

The holiday sprung into recognition through various city ordinances that were passed between 1885-86, according the U.S. Department of Labor. These ordinances spread fast until June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act to officially declare the first Monday of each September to be called “Labor Day.”

Today, people across the country and here in Santa Clarita use the day to travel or enjoy the three-day weekend, as Labor Day is considered a bank holiday. When the holiday was first observed, outliners of the holiday proposed it should be celebrated with a street parade to exhibit to the people “the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,” according to the DOL website.

Over the years, the way in which the holiday has been celebrated has changed as much as the country has. While many cities still host parades, others have ended the practice, including those in large industrial centers, according to the DOL website.

Changes have shifted Labor Day to focus on proclamations made by leading union officials, industrialists, educators and government officials. But the celebration of remembering traditional ideals of economic and political democracy still remain.

“I think Labor Day is something well beyond the end of summer and barbecues,” said City Councilmember Cameron Smyth. “It’s a great way to appreciate all the men and women who have worked to make this country what it is. It’s appropriate, quintessentially American.”

The city of Santa Clarita doesn’t host any events that recognize the holiday; however, the city does display American flags hanging from light poles on major roads of the city, according to city communications manager Carrie Lujan.

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