SAN JOSE, August 30, 2013—Labor Day became an officially sanctioned federal holiday in the aftermath of some of the most turbulent labor unrest in the history of the United States.
The first significant Labor Day parade occurred in 1882, years before city and state governments passed legislation dedicated to remembering the contributions of the workers in building this nation. The federal holiday celebrated on the first Monday in September became law partly because Congress and President Grover Cleveland hastily reacted to a union strike turned violent that had crippled the country’s railways.
The bill creating the Labor Day holiday was rushed unanimously through Congress near the end of summer in 1894. Cleveland reportedly signed the bill only six days after calling in U.S. Marshalls, along with approximately 12,000 U.S. Army troops, to end violent clashes between striking railway workers and local authorities.
The strike was no simple matter of disgruntled employees demanding higher wages and is viewed as a classic battle between labor and management or between labor and government.
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