September 3, 2013 – Labour Day (Labor Day in the USA) is an annual holiday to celebrate the achievements of workers. Labour Day has its origins in the labour union movement, specifically the eight-hour day movement, which advocated eight hours for work, eight hours for recreation, and eight hours for rest. Labour Day in Canada is celebrated on the first Monday of September and has long since considered being a holiday to campaign for workers’ rights. Labour Day was originally celebrated in the spring but it was moved to the fall after 1894 when Prime Minister Sir John Thompson declared Labour Day a national holiday.
The origins of Labour Day can be traced back to April 15, 1872, when the Toronto Trades Assembly organized Canada’s first significant demonstration for worker’s rights. The aim of the demonstration was to release the 24 leaders of the Toronto Typographical Union who were imprisoned for striking to campaign for a nine-hour working day. At this time, trade unions were still illegal and striking was seen as a criminal conspiracy to disrupt trade. In spite of this, the Toronto Trades Assembly was already a significant organization and encouraged workers to form trade unions, mediated in disputes between employers and employees and signaled the mistreatment of workers.
Over time, Labour Day strayed from its origins and evolved into a popular celebration enjoyed by the masses such as other celebrations include picnics, fireworks displays, water activities, shopping and public art events. Since the new school year generally starts right after Labour Day, families with school-age children take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer. A Labour Day tradition in Atlantic Canada is the Wharf Rat Rally in Digby, Nova Scotia, while the rest of Canada watches the Labour Day Classic, a Canadian Football League event where rivals like Calgary Stampeders and Edmonton Eskimos, Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Toronto Argonauts, and Saskatchewan Roughriders and Winnipeg Blue Bombers play on Labour Day weekend. Before the demise of the Ottawa Renegades after the 2005 season, that team played the nearby Montreal Alouettes on Labour Day weekend. Since then, the Alouettes have played the remaining team in the league, the BC Lions.
Día del Trabajo (Labour Day) commemorates the Mexican workers’ union movements on May 1 — specifically, the 1906 Cananea, Sonora, and the 1907 Río Blanco, Veracruz, labor unrest and repression. In 1889 William Cornell Greene purchased a mine founded the Nogales, Sonora-based company, The Cananea Consolidated Copper Company. In June 1906, a labour dispute erupted into the violent cross-border Cananea strike, leaving more than 20 dead and dozens injured. The Cananea Strike of 1906 resulted in a fight between the strikers and a posse led by Arizona Rangers from the United States who had been sanctioned by the government to protect American interests. At the time of the strike the population of 23,000 included 7,000 Americans and 5,000 Chinese.
No matter where you find yourself this Labour Day, take a minute to think about Canada’s labour pioneers. Their actions laid the foundations for future labour movements and helped workers secure the rights and benefits enjoyed today. As an entrepreneur and self employed I of course will spending some time today working. What you are doing, just enjoy it.
For those interested in the origins of the Labour Movement in Canada watch this video