Many immigrants settled in New York City in the nineteenth century. They
found that living conditions were not as wonderful as they had dreamed.
Often there were six families crowded into a house made for one family.
Thousands of children had to go to work. Working conditions were even
worse. Immigrant men, women and children worked in factories for ten to
twelve hours a day, stopping only for a short time to eat. They came to
work even if they were tired or sick because if they didn't, they might be
fired. Thousands of people were waiting to take their places.
When Peter McGuire was 17, he began an apprenticeship in a piano shop.
This job was better than his others, for he was learning a trade, but he
still worked long hours with low pay. At night he went to meetings and
classes in economics and social issues of the day. One of the main issues
of concern pertained to labor conditions. Workers were tired of long
hours, low pay and uncertain jobs. They spoke of organizing themselves
into a union of laborers to improve their working conditions. In the
spring of 1872, Peter McGuire and 100,000 workers went on strike and
marched through the streets, demanding a decrease in the long working
This event convinced Peter that an organized labor movement was
important for the future of workers' rights. He spent the next year
speaking to crowds of workers and unemployed people, lobbying（游说） the city
government for jobs and relief money. It was not an easy road for Peter
McGuire. He became known as a "disturber of the public peace." The city
government ignored his demands. Peter himself could not find a job in his
trade. He began to travel up and down the east coast to speak to laborers
about unionizing（成立工会）. In 1881, he moved to St. Louis, Missouri, and
began to organize carpenters there. He organized a convention of
carpenters in Chicago, and it was there that a national union of
carpenters was founded. He became General Secretary of the United
Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners of America.
The idea of organizing workers according to their trades spread around
the country. Factory workers, dock workers and toolmakers all began to
demand and get their rights to an eight-hour workday, a secure job and a
future in their trades. Peter McGuire and laborers in other cities planned
a holiday for workers on the first Monday in September, halfway between
Independence Day and Thanksgiving Day.
On September 5, 1882 the first Labor Day parade was held in New York
City. Twenty thousand
workers marched in a parade up Broadway. They
carried banners that read "LABOR CREATES ALL WEALTH," and "EIGHT HOURS FOR
WORK, EIGHT HOURS FOR REST, EIGHT HOURS FOR RECREATION!" After the parade
there were picnics all around the city. Workers and celebrants ate Irish
stew, homemade bread and apple pie. At night, fireworks were set off.
Within the next few years, the idea spread from coast to coast, and all
states celebrated Labor Day.
In 1894, Congress voted it a federal holiday.
Today Americans celebrate Labor Day with a little less fanfare（热闹的宣传）
on the first Monday of September. Some cities have parades and community
picnics. Many politicians "kick off' their political campaigns by holding
rallies on the holiday. Most Americans consider Labor Day the end of the
summer, and the beaches and other popular resort areas are packed with
people enjoying one last three-day