Labor Day: Why we celebrate it and what it means

Monday, September 2, marks the 125th anniversary of Labor Day, and the Indiana Senate Democrats wanted to commemorate this milestone by taking a moment to explore the history and importance of this federal holiday.

The first Labor Day was celebrated in 1882, and, by the time it was not recognized as a federal holiday in 1894, it was already being officially celebrated by thirty states in the U.S. Labor Day was created as a way to celebrate the American labor movement and honor the important role workers played in the development and prosperity of our nation. Labor Day was originally intended to be celebrated with a parade followed by a festival where workers and their families would be entertained. While festivals and parades are still sometimes held, over the years, this original way of celebration has become less common.

Today, Labor Day is viewed as the official end of summer to most people and many celebrate the holiday with vacations, family time and outdoor activities. While the appeal of the three-day weekend and lucrative sales are often the source of excitement surrounding the holiday, it’s important that we understand the origins of Labor Day and recognize it as a day to celebrate and honor workers. It is because of the hard work of working-class Americans – workers like teachers, truck drivers, mechanics and construction laborers – that our country is able to thrive and make tremendous strides forward.

As we celebrate Labor Day and the millions of workers that contribute to the prosperity of our country, it’s also important that we recognize the ever-growing need in our country to honor our workers and pay them fairly. As we wrap up a decade of a stagnant minimum wage – a minimum wage that has failed to keep up with the cost of living – and worker strikes explode across the nation, it is time for elected officials to come together, show appreciation for our workers and pass legislation to ensure that no working citizens ever have to choose between paying the rent and putting food on the table for their families.