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Labour Day

The first Monday in September is Labour Day in Canada. Although we may spell it differently, it has the same purpose as the holiday in the United States. Read on for some history of Labour Day and follow the links at the bottom of the page for related organizations.


There is some doubt and confusion as to when or by whom Labour Day was started. Here are some points of importance to how it all started.

April 15, 1872Toronto Trades Assembly (possibly the original labour body in Canada) organized the first North American "workingman's demonstration". Some 10,000 Torontonians turned out to watch a parade and to listen to speeches calling for abolition of the law which decreed that "trade unions were criminal conspiracies in restraint of trade".
September 3, 1872Members of seven unions in Ottawa Canada organized a parade that stretched for more than a mile long. The parade stopped at the home of Prime Minister Sir John A. Macdonald. They brought him into a carriage and marched to the Ottawa City Hall by torch light. The Prime Minister was aware of the discontent of workers with the laws which made unions illegal so he made this declaration that his party would "Sweep away all such barbarous laws from the statute books". These laws were repealed by Parliament later that year and the tradition of holding parades and demonstrations was continued on into the early 1880s.
July 22, 1882The Toronto Trades and Labour Council (the successor to the TTA) organized the annual demonstration and parade. Peter J. McGuire of New York was invited to attend and speak at this occasion.
1882Matthew Maguire, later secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J. proposed a holiday for labourers while serving as secretary of the Central Labour Union in New York.
1882Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labour suggested a day to honour workers.
September 5, 1882The Central Labour Union held its first Labour Day holiday in New York City. A second Labour Day was again held a year later on September 5, 1883.
1884The first Monday in September was selected as the holiday and the Central Labour Union urged similar organizations in other cities to also celebrate a "workingman's holiday" on that date.
February 21, 1887Oregon passed the first bill to become law making Labour Day an official holiday.
June 28, 1894The United States Congress passed an act making the first Monday of September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories including all Federal workers in all states. The individual States still had to enact their own legislation which 31 States had done already by this time.
July 23, 1894The Canadian Government enacted legislation making Labour Day, the first Monday of September of each year into a national holiday.

See also
Canadian Holidays

External Links
Canadian Labour Congress
Canadian Auto Workers
Alberta Federation of Labour
BC Federation of Labour
Saskatchewan Federation of Labour
Manitoba Federation of Labour
Ontario Federation of Labour

Copyright Craig I.W. Marlatt