In 1894, President Grover Cleveland declared Labor Day a national holiday and Congress passed an act declaring the first Monday in September as the official date for our annual Labor Day commemoration. However, independent radio reporter and producer Dick Meister of San Francisco (http://dickmeister.com/id2.html) found that, “The observation of Labor Day actually began a quarter-century earlier. In San Francisco, it was on Feb. 21, 1868. Brass bands blared. Flags, banners, and torch lights waved high as more than 3,000 union members marched proudly through San Francisco’s downtown streets, led by shipyard workers and carpenters and men from dozens of other construction trades. The marchers called their parade a “jollification” – the climax of a three-year campaign of strikes and other pressures that had led to establishment of the eight-hour workday as a legal right in California.”
You can hear Dick’s essay giving San Francisco credit on the Public Radio Exchange Web site:
In 1967, then AFL CIO President George Meany made his Labor Day radio address to the nation. He concluded by saying, “Congress holds the key to the future. Congress must use that key to open the gates of progress. Progress that, today is not just desirable, but urgently necessary.” If you take time to listen to the full 14 minutes of his speech, you will hear familiar themes of the need for jobs, housing and the seeming inability of Congress to act. In the post titled “Congress Then – Congress Now: George Meany – Labor Day 1967,” you might think he was talking about the current political debates.