Labor Day: Canadian Origins, American Traditions and the 40-Hour Workweek

The holiday was first observed by our neighbors up north.

Labor Day is celebrated in the United States on the first Monday in September. Though often commemorated with picnics, barbecues and parties, the holiday is meant to pay tribute to the country's workforce.

How much do you know about Labor Day? Here are some facts about the holiday that may surprise you:

  • Labor Day actually started in Canada. Its origins can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada's first significant demonstration for worker's rights. Canadians also celebrate the holiday on the first Monday of September, but to them it's "Labour Day."
  • Americans first celebrated Labor Day Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City. A parade with 10,000 workers marched from City Hall to Union Square.
  • On June 28, 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year Labor Day.
  • The Adamson Act, enacted in 1916, was the first United States federal legislation regulating the hours of workers in private companies. It established an eight-hour workday, with additional pay for overtime work, for railroad workers.
  • Passed in 1938, the Fair Labor Standards Act protects workers by setting standards for minimum wage, overtime pay, record keeping and youth labor. At the time, it set the minimum hourly wage at 25 cents and the maximum workweek at 44 hours
  • Today, the standard American workweek is 40 hours—eight hours a day, five days a week.
  • In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week.
  • According to the International Labour Organization, Americans work 137 more hours a year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours a year than British workers and 499 more hours a year than French workers.
  • The idea that you can't wear white after Labor Day may be because wearing white in the summer was, for many centuries, a way to stay cool and avoid attracting the sun's warm rays. Many students heading back to class after Labor Day, a holiday marking the end of summer, begin wearing heavier and darker fall clothing

Do you know any interesting Labor Day-related facts? Please share them in the comments section below.

Have a fun and safe Labor Day!

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