The United States is observing Labor Day, a day set aside to honor U.S. workers and their contributions to the country’s economy.

In the 1880’s, there was a push to recognize the U.S. worker, who back then was likely to be working at least 12 hours a day, six days a week, with a paltry salary. Even children as young as five were often part of a factory’s dingy landscape. Health care benefits were unheard of.

One by one, states drafted and passed legislation that set aside a day to honor the contributions of the common worker.

On June 28, 1884, Congress passed an act designating the first Monday in September of each year as Labor Day, making it a national holiday.

Labor Unions

In recent years, labor unions have seen their membership dwindle with the growth of technology and the globalization of the world economy.

However, the workers’ benefits unions fought for decades ago are now customary in most U.S. workplaces, including the eight-hour work day, five-day work weeks, health care insurance and vacations paid for by employers.

Many union members now work for local, state and federal governments in white-collar jobs, not in the gritty factories where the labor movement began.

Parades, cookouts

In keeping with the original intent of the holiday, some U.S. cities continue to stage parades honoring trade and labor unions, and hold festivities for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families.

However, most workers in the U.S. have the day off and spend time with their families, gathering for backyard cookouts or trips to parks and beaches.

Labor Day has become known as the unofficial end of summer since schools usually reopened from summer vacation after Labor Day. But now, more and more schools are reopening in August.

Credit: Voice of America (VOA) | Photo Credit: AP