NewsCovering Colorado


History of Labor Day: Colorado's role in recognizing the holiday

Posted at 10:27 PM, Sep 04, 2023

SOUTHERN COLORADO — Labor Day Weekend marks the unofficial end of summer, but the holiday means much more to labor unions in Southern Colorado.

Les Thompson, President of the Colorado Springs Area Labor Council, said our nation’s workers should be celebrated every day.

“Working together, we have more to gain than we have to lose,” he said.

Historically, Labor Day has been a day to celebrate the achievements of America’s workers. The holiday dates back to the late 19th century during the Industrial Revolution when labor rights activists pushed for better working conditions, more breaks, and better hours.

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated in New York City on Sept. 5, 1882, with a parade similar to those we see today. Oregon became the first state to pass a law recognizing Labor Day in 1887. Just a month later, Colorado became the second state to recognize the holiday.

"I feel proud living in Colorado knowing we're one of the first states. I'm just proud to be here," said Thompson.

Around 30 other states adopted the holiday in the following years and in June of 1894, the federal government recognized Labor Day as a legal holiday.

“Labor Day, to me personally, is just a day to come out and celebrate the working men and women of America,” said Thompson.

The Colorado Springs Area Labor Council represents about 34 different local unions, from plumbers and electricians to pipefitters and postal workers.

Thompson said he hopes future generations continue to celebrate Labor Day and remember its true meaning of honoring America’s hard workers.

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows just over 10% of workers in 2022 were part of a labor union. The BLS data shows that protective service workers, like police officers and firefighters, had the highest rate of unionized workers at 34.6%.

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