Happy Labor Day

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The following is an excerpt from today’s 5-Day Forecast:

Today is Labor Day, a holiday to honor the American worker by giving them a day off. The markets are closed, so you should really stop reading this, step away from the computer and enjoy the unofficial end of summer.

But if you insist on reading, I’ll tell you a story. A few months ago, we had a discussion about labor holidays in the office. Our Editorial Director, Teresa van den Barselaar, who hails from South Africa, asked why we American workaholics insisted on working on May 1, which is Labor Day for most of the rest of the world.

My response – mostly in jest – was that May 1 was a commie holiday, and this is ‘Merica.

I’m a child of the Cold War, and I had always assumed that May Day was a creation of the communist USSR… and that we Americans came up with our own Labor Day in September because we didn’t want to give the Russians a propaganda win.

Boy, was I wrong.

It turns out that both days have their roots in U.S. history… and that the American September Labor Day is actually the older of the two holidays.

The first American Labor Day celebration took place in New York City in September 1882. Five years later, the first state – Oregon – made it an official holiday, and the rest of the states and the Federal government followed thereafter.

May 1 – May Day – commemorates an incident in 1886 in Chicago’s Haymarket Square, where a labor protest turned into a violent confrontation between anarchists and police… and eight people ended up dead in the melee.

In the U.S., the Haymarket marchers were, rightly or wrongly, mostly remembered as a bunch of anarchist and socialist troublemakers. But in the rest of the industrializing world, it became a rallying cry for the nascent labor rights movements.

So there you go, Teresa. That’s why Americans celebrate Labor Day in September.