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From “The Working Man’s Day” to “Summer Isn’t Over Yet”: Labor Day in Greenburgh:
By: Riley Wentzler & Felicia Barber
Labor Day is the first Monday of September. It has sometimes been referred to as “The Working-man’s Day.” By “working man,” people who use this phrase are referring to blue collar workers. The First Labor Day parade occurred in 1884 in New York City. It was organized by a now defunct labor union called the “Knights of Labor.” Ten years later, in 1894, Congress made it a National Holiday (Microsoft Encarta Reference Library © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). The labor movement succeeded in changing the landscape of work. In the 1800s, the average American worked 12-hour days, seven days a week. Many workers worked in unsafe conditions in factories and child labor was a common practice (https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day-1). Thanks to the American Labor Movement, today, we now have: on average an 8 hour work day, a 40hour work week, safer conditions on the job, and child labor is illegal (https://www.history.com/topics/holidays/labor-day-1). Accordingly, the holiday was intended to give the laborer a much needed day off, and also, to mark the struggles and successes of the American Labor Movement.
While most Americans could probably name Samuel Gompers as the founder and first leader of The American Federation of Labor (A.F.L.), what about the National Farm Workers Association, can you name its leader and founder? Think fast. 1…2… 3. Any name coming to mind? If you said, “César Chávez”, you would be correct.
If you knew that one, good job! Give yourself a round of applause. It also means that you probably know the name of the founder of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.) who is way more famous than César Chávez. So, do you know who founded and led the I.W.W? 1, …2... 3.
That would be Eugene Debs. His name is familiar to most Americans, though probably not because he led the I.W.W. or organized the Pullman Strike, but rather because he was the candidate of the Socialist Party for president in 1904, 1908, and 1912 (Microsoft Encarta Reference Library © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation). How did you do?
If you got the first two names, perhaps you can name the founder of the aforementioned Knights of Labor? They are after all, the labor union most closely associated with Labor Day, having organized the first Labor Day parade. Think fast. 1, …2… 3. Stumped??? It is Uriah S. Stephens (https://www.history.com/topics/19th-century/knights-of-labor).
The reason most Americans can’t think of César Chávez’s or Uriah S. Stephens’ names, and might not know that Debs founded the I.W.W, is because most Americans do not spend Labor Day thinking about the Labor Movement. For most of us, Labor Day merely marks the unofficial end of summer.
How then, has Greenburgh typically celebrated Labor Day?
Labor Day in Greenburgh:
Labor Day in Greenburgh has definitely been celebrated more as the unofficial end of summer than as a commemoration of the struggles and successes of the American Labor Movement. Let us look back at all the ways Greenburgh has had fun on Labor Day.
On Labor Day of 1916, a baseball team from Ardsley played a game against a baseball team from Dobbs Ferry (Tarrytown daily news, August 30, 1916 p. 1).
While baseball has often been called “America’s National Past-time”, this did not apparently take root as a Labor Day tradition. The next year, tennis had supplanted baseball.