Why we celebrate Labor Day

Originally Published September 4, 2009

As Labor Day weekend approaches, many will view this as the one last break before school starts, or a last summer fling before fall settles in, but you may not know the origins of this day off from work.

 Labor Day originally came about as the industrial revolution revved up, which meant long work days, poor working conditions, and low pay as the technology advanced faster than the labor pool was ready to handle. Men, women and even children were working 12 hour days, seven days a week, just to make ends meet.
Plumbers Local #3 prior to joining the Labor Day Parade in Denver, 1903 - courtesy of the Denver Public LibraryUnions began to organize to help fight for workers rights; proper ventilation, shorter work days, better conditions, better pay. In peaceful protest of the work conditions, and to celebrate their fellow workers, on September 5th, 1882, 10,000 workers took an unpaid day off to march in New York City from City Hall to Union Square. Speeches were made, and peacefully and proudly, the workers made their grievances heard and got the attention they wanted.
This was so successful that more and more cities followed the example of NYC and had their own Labor Day parades every September 5th. The riots in Chicago over the Pullman car boycott over wage cuts in 1894 really brought labor issues out to the general public, and Congress declared that the first Monday of every September henceforth would be a holiday for all workers – Labor Day.
Labor Day in Eldora, 1900 - courtesy of the Denver Public Library
Labor Day in Colorado has been celebrated in many different ways, from parades in all the small towns to games and sporting events in other towns.  Today, events across Colorado vary, more celebrating the day off rather than the labor movement, but a celebration it still is.
Here are some of the Denver area events for this weekend:
Taste of Colorado – Civic Center Park in downtown Denver – Sept. 4th – 7th   11:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.Fri., 10:30 a.m. – 10 p.m. Sat. & Sun., 10:30 a.m. – 8 p.m. Mon. This is free to the public, and has food, a carnival and tons of music, celebrating their 25th year.
Jazz Aspen Snowmass Labor Day Festival – Sept. 4th – 6th – in SnowmassVillage. Bands include Elvis Costello, Doobie Brothers and The Back Eyed Peas. Cost is $54-$74 per day.
Celebration Metaphysical Fair – Denver Merchandise Mart – 3 p.m. – 8 p.m. Fri., 11 a.m. – 6 p.m. Sat., 11 a.m. – 5 p.m. Sun. Admission is $5 a day or $13 for all three days. Some seminars may also have fees.
And of course, the Colorado State Fair in Pueblo. The fair’s last day is Sept 7th, and it is open daily from 10 am tomidnight. Mon-Thurs tickets are $5, Fri-Sun $8.
Rock drilling contest in Silverton on Labor Day in the 1930s - courtesy of the Denver Public LiibraryEnjoy these photos of past Labor Day fun and frolics in Colorado (mouse over the photos for the details), and have a wonderful weekend!

Float ready for the Labor Day parade in the 1910s - courtesy of the Denver Public Library

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