The Labor Day holiday — born out of a struggle many know little about or recognize

When I was an undergraduate I had a history professor take our class for a tour of the Pullman neighborhood located on the south side of Chicago. It was a great little trip back in history that I recall fondly.

Railroad magnet George Pullman, owner of the Pullman Palace Car Company, built the town of Pullman for his workers in the 1880s. The houses he built for his employees were luxurious for the time as they had gas, indoor plumbing, and connections to sewers.

An economic depression followed the Panic of 1893, orders for Pullman cars dropped off and ultimately resulted in the lay-off and subsequent wage reduction for  many of the Pullman workers. Even though Mr. Pullman knew his employees were living on less he did not reduce the rents of his houses.  Angered over this fact and the general loss of wages, on May 11, 1894 four thousand of the Pullman workers went on strike in protest.

In support of the Pullman workers, labor activist Eugene Debs established a boycott of the movement of Pullman cars throughout the railway systems in the United States and by June 26th 125,000 railroad workers across the US quit their jobs rather than move Pullman cars. You can read more about the Pullman strike in Samuel Yellen’s book American Labor Struggles: 1877 – 1934 (to find this book here you can use the online catalog – don’t know how? This is perfect time to ask a librarian).

After the strike ended in late Summer 1894, President Grover Cleveland and the United States Congress worked together to recognize the efforts of organized labor. This cooperation resulted in the establishment of the federal Labor Day holiday. You can read more about Labor Day and how it has changed over time by viewing the following article using the library database Academic Search Complete:

“The Transformation Of Labor Day.” Wilson Quarterly 16.3 (1992): 13. Academic Search Complete. Web. 29 Aug. 2012.

Here is a list of the databases the library provides. Consider taking some time to browse it. Also, don’t forget to always log-on to Esearch BEFORE attempting your database search.

With one week of the fall semester under you belt it is nice to have a three-day weekend to recover from all that is new. Also, you may want to use the extra day to get ahead on your course work. Whatever you do this Labor Day you can now consider yourself some what knowledgeable about how Labor Day came about.


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