Why do Americans and Canadians celebrate Labor Day? -Kenneth C. Davis


How’s this for a strange idea: a day off from work in honor of work itself? Actually, that is what Labor Day, celebrated in the United States and Canada on the first Monday of every September, is all about. The first American Labor Day was celebrated in New York City on September 5th, 1882, as thousands of workers and their families came to Union Square for a day in the park. It was not a national holiday but had been organized by a union to honor workers and their hard efforts with a rare day of rest, halfway between July 4th and Thanksgiving. There were picnics and a parade, but there were also protests. The workers had gathered, not just to rest and celebrate, but to demand fair wages, the end of child labor, and the right to organize into unions. During the period known as The Industrial Revolution, many jobs were difficult, dirty and dangerous. People worked for twelve hours, six days a week, without fringe benefits, such as vacations, health care and pensions, and if you were young, chances are you were doing manual labor instead of your ABCs and fractions. Children as young as ten worked in some of the most hazardous places, like coal mines or factories filled with boiling vats or dangerous machines. Trying to win better pay, shorter hours and safer conditions workers had begun to form labor unions in America and Canada, but the companies they worked for often fought hard to keep unions out and to supress strikes. At times, this led to violent battles between workers and business owners with the owners often backed up by the police, or even the military. In the following years, the idea of Labor Day caught on in America with official celebrations reaching 30 states. But then came the violent Haymarket Square Riot of 1886, which led to the deaths of several policemen and workers in Chicago and the execution of four union leaders. After that, many labor and political groups around the world had begun to mark Haymarket Square on May 1st, which became known as International Workers’ Day. In 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed the law making Labor Day a federal holiday in America, only days after he had sent 12,000 soldiers to end a violent railroad strike that resulted in the death of several people. The original September date was kept, partly to avoid the more radical associations of May 1st. Canada also created its Labor Day in 1894. But, in spite of this new holiday, it would be a long time before the changes that workers wanted became a reality. In 1938, during the Great Depression that left millions without jobs, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a law calling for an eight-hour work day, a five-day work week, and an end to child labor, some of the first federal protections for American workers. As America and Canada celebrate Labor Day, most of the two countries’ children enjoy a day off from school. But it is important to remember that there was a time that everyday was a labor day for children in America and Canada, and unfortunately, the same fact remains true for millions of children around the world today.

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  1. Christ how I hate spoiled anti-union western workers. It's like anti-vaccines: too easy to say you don't need it just because you don't know the illness anymore. Yes, in Europe they're a bit too institutionalized and they definitely need to rethink their organization but goddam, you're really stupid if you think that you as a single worker could deal with your employer on the same level, without the benefits unions fought to give you and their willingness to back you.

  2. Well I know what to refer to myself in other parts of the Americans at least, which is probably the main area where people want the distinction. So thank you.

  3. I know he never landed in the US. I think I'll go with United Statan, cause you do not want to refer to anyone below the Mason Dixon line as a Yankee.

  4. I live in Europe and usually go with Texan…….I love to see the confused looks on European faces until they remember that Texas is a part of the United States.

  5. Yeah, I get what you are saying. But I can tell you that most people from the US would be insulted if someone referred to them with the last 3, and a specific section would really take offense to yankee. I looked up gringos and it seems ok, and United Statan seems the best answer I have gotten so far.

  6. I really feel like making the joke "Despite what the natives believe, Texas is not its own country" But it seems a little poor taste, so I'll just leave it in quotes.

  7. 😛 Though I agree with that calling anyone from the former Confederacy a "Yankee" will not generally go over well……..I resent it when my fellow europeans refer to me as a "Yank".

  8. Cause it's the day before school starts for many. But yeah, after watching this video, you start to think of the millions of children who don't get to go to school and have to work instead, and you feel a bit more thankful that you have the opportunity to go to school.

  9. well in spanish they are called "Estado-Unidences", from "Estados-Unidos". But in english "United-Stadians of America" sounds lame 😛
    So I think they should be called "people from United-Stades of America"

  10. Just curious, could you mention anything specific about any Canadian connections to Labour Day? Feels like any mention of Canada in this video was a footnote, like nobody had actually bothered to do any research on Canadian labour history.

  11. Great information… need to talk faster. This video should have been less than 3:00 given amount of information. It's not even a natural pace, the narrator is obviously pacing himself.

  12. It depends on the union and you have to consider how their power comes about, basically through cooperation of members. The real problem with unions is that while it might seem obvious to create and join them, the reality of what it takes to make a successful union can be unpleasant, and the fact that union leaders are people, the same as the business owners. But to say that it's bad for workers to have the ability to join together and bargain collectively is ridiculous.

  13. Why are non-Americans so hot to be called Americans? Why is it so important to you that we stop calling ourselves Americans? Your country has a name. If you're Colombian, for example, what do you care?

  14. I agree, I know about Europe, I'm from Brussels, Belgium, but living in the US since 1994 (age 13) up until now. I prefer May 1st.

  15. first french version I've gotten. I've gotten a lot of spanish that is about the same. So I guess I need to start referring to myself as a State Unadian, as everyone seems to suggest

  16. Let's be honest here. Labor Day, as well as every other holiday, is all about businesses trying to sell you a bunch of stuff that you don't really need.

  17. honestly, no. I'm all for protesting all the major holidays such as easter or halloween or xmas, but I truly don't see a commercial benefit for labor day. The only rise in sales that you see is in beer, food, and paper plates. This trend was set by the people though, not the corporations. It is true though that because of this, beer companies will try to take advantage of the situation, but it's probably a pointless effort to advertise something people will buy anyhow.

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  19. Hey, Ted-Ed – those four hanged were not "union leaders" – they were Anarchists – unaffiliated with the unions originally involved in the labor unrest that resulted in Haymarket.  While their executions were themselves a miscarriage of justice (that's a whole other issue…), it is historically inaccurate to claim they were union leaders.  Getcher facts straight.

  20. What the heck was that kooky, krazy, kommie video I just watched? Before FDR no kids went to school??? MUST re-LISTEN to minutes 3.43-3.50 — Wowza! What a pack o' lies! Hmmm…The first grammar school in USA was the Boston Latin School, founded in 1635. (That's round about close to 400 YEARS before FDR began wrecking America). In 1647 the Massachusetts Bay Colony enacted Old Deluder Satan Law, requiring any township of 100 households to establish a grammar school, and similar laws followed in the other New England colonies. Put that in your pinko pipe and smoke it! Freedom & Love 🙂

  21. Now I'm glad that if somehow Donald Trump becomes president and my family moves out of the country (Mom said we would if that happened), and we went to Canada (probably the most likely place to end up), I would still have Labor Day. I mean, why wouldn't we end up in Canada? They speak English. And they sell Mars Bars. Mmmmmmm.

  22. Ted should be ashamed of this inaccurate, over simplified and distorted representation of the facts.

  23. I wanted to do an English lesson on this and I believe my students will find this video really useful, thank you!

  24. In Canada, Labour Day is usually the last day of summer vacation before school starts. At least, that's how it's been for me since I was in 1st grade.

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  26. Great vid! Worthwhile to point out that Ottawa and Toronto held parallel labour day parades since 1872. Peter J McGuire actually attended the Toronto parade where he got the idea to hold a similar one in NYC a decade later.

  27. Honey R Siegal Stober Labor Day Mon 9/3/2018 Day 2988 We The People Against Corruption Campaign To Remove&Indict Obamas, Janet Napolitano, Trump et al. 9 days until anniversary 911. School used to reconvene after Labour Day earlier now part of the social geopolitical engineering breakdown of traditional family- summer family holidays and camp. Truth is the US is not the US nor Canada nor Mexico since 99 or before. see https://www.youtube.com/user/HoneySiegalSurvivor/feed

  28. If you’re doing history on two countries, you should have a partial view on the history of both countries, that video was %99 U.S. and %1 Canadian, sorry but the gesture of adding a “U” to the word Labour because you’re country doesn’t do the history of labour day in Canada justice.😤🇨🇦

  29. Don't disagree with the history at all, but this clip implying that Labor Day celebrates workers' triumphing in wealthy countries is pretty naive. Things are worse elsewhere, but that doesn't mean everything's fine now for workers in Europe and North America. That's ridiculous. There's very obviously still a ruling class that own property and an enormous underclass of workers, who get exploited by them, whether that's being paid too little or charged too much for rent.

  30. "People worked 12 hour days, 6 days a week without fringe benefits like vacation, health care and pensions."
    I know people doing that now.
    Happy labor day

  31. Though they should should have added, that for early African /African-American children, they had been labor from the time they were stolen AS SLAVES, from Africa😣 to become FORCED LABOR or born into it; TO HELP BUILD THE U.S.A. AND OTHER COUNTRIES😣😥!!

  32. God creates the universe and everything in it and he gets 1 day off per week. We do all the work to keep it running and we get 1 day off per year lol

  33. 🤨No se si soy *BRUTA*pero de que se trata este video!!! Dar a conocer donde nacio " El Dia de Trabajo "No como la gente pronuncia cualquier palabra EXTRANGERA.😖🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫🤫

  34. I used to get labor day off until I got a union job. Actually, the work conditions that brought about labor day sound like the modern trucking industry here in the US. Truckers work 14+ hour days for weeks at a time without much more than the cost of living for pay when you consider their lifestyle. A new driver today makes about what I made as a new driver in 2002. Maybe instead of fighting for wages to increase, someone could figure out how to level off living expenses with more time off from work.

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