More than a holiday, Labor Day represents hard-won gains by working people

More than a holiday, Labor Day represents hard-won gains by working people
Michelle Zettergren

Labor Day is always one of my favorite holidays of the year, and not just because of the big parade here in New York, barbecues, great weather and time spent with family. I enjoy and celebrate those as much as anyone else, but Labor Day carries special meaning to me for all that it represents beyond a simple recognition of the value of work and workers.

2023 marks the 129th Labor Day observed under the act of Congress that created it, and it deserves an extra moment of reflection and gratitude because making Labor Day a national holiday was a very minor part of the struggle for workers’ rights.

In the 1890s many workers worked 12 to 14 hours a day, six days a week, and if they wanted a holiday, it was often unpaid. In A Christmas Carol, Scrooge’s grousing about Bob Cratchit’s sole day off on Christmas Day wasn’t just because he was Scrooge. His response was, if anything, typical of the time in which its author Charles Dickens—also a crusader for social justice—wrote.

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