Friday, August 30, 2013

Labour Day

For those about to celebrate the long weekend known as Labour Day, it is worthwhile examining the origins of this uniquely North American holiday.  Labour Day is indeed a celebration of working men and women in Canada and the United States.  But, the origins are more complicated than simple celebration.  Labour Day was the creation of federal statute, and following the American lead, it was set for the first weekend in September.  In the rest of the world, however, Labour Day is May 1st.  So why the discrepancy?  One of the reasons Canadian Conservatives (and Liberals) supported the American legislation (and not the international one) was because May day is associated with socialist, anarcho syndicalist, and even communist workers' movements.  For Canadian officials, Labour Day was a way to respond to worker militancy but also to undercut some of the more politically radical members of the working class.   For those interested in learning more, check out Craig Heron and Stephen Penfold's excellent book: The Workers' Festival: A History of Labour Day in Canada  

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