Celebrating Labor Day

Honoring the American Worker

Until the first Labor Day 140 years ago, our holidays honored religious, civil, and military occasions, but none honored the ordinary American worker. 

Labor Day changed all that.

On September 5, 1882, over 12,000 American workers from dozens of union organizations gave up a day’s-pay to parade through the streets of New York to celebrate what became the first Labor Day.

In a time when employers often required employees to work extremely long hours in unsafe environments, American workers had little recourse. The celebration was significant for the burgeoning movement that pushed for safe working conditions, reasonable hours, and fair pay.

Labor Day celebrations remained significant to union organizations, particularly in the 1950s, when over a third of all American workers claimed union membership. Today, those numbers have fallen to roughly 10 percent.

More business owners and management recognize the connection between the success of their businesses and a loyal and motivated workforce. Top workplaces compete for the best employees through appealing work environments, better pay, growth opportunities, and respect for their employees, diminishing the demand for unions.

America’s Workforce and the American Dream

Achieving high workplace standards has enabled many more people to see how they themselves can pursue the American dream.

Changing beliefs and higher respect for different types of education have opened doors for many more young people to achieve success based on their own interests, abilities and goals.

Whether they attend high school training programs, trade schools, associate programs, or universities, opportunities for young people are greater than ever.


Teaching the Roots of the American Dream
Regardless of their educational path, we must ensure they receive a solid civics education as they get started.

It is by understanding the history and principles behind the American Dream that they will understand the freedoms they have to pursue their goals.

Improving American Civics at the K-12 level is key to the Jack Miller Center mission. We are building a movement of teachers, scholars, and concerned citizens who seek to pass along an understanding of American self-government to the next generation.



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