Is Labor Day just another federal holiday, or does it have some special significance?

Sometimes it seems as though there is a federal holiday every time we turn around, but perhaps somewhat surprising, there are only 14 federal holidays. Here they are:

» Jan. 1, New Year’s Day

» Jan. 21, Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday and Inauguration Day

» Feb. 18, Washington’s Birthday

» May 27, Memorial Day

» July 4, Independence Day

» Sept. 2, Labor Day

» Oct. 14, Columbus Day

» Nov. 11, Veterans Day

» Nov. 28, Thanksgiving Day

» Dec. 25, Christmas Day

So, why Labor Day?

The Labor Department website notes that Labor Day was created by the “labor movement” as a “tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and well-being of our country.”

It started with municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. “From these, a movement developed … to secure state legislation … and the first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon” in 1887, according to the DOL website. In that same year, “four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment,” followed by Connecticut, Nebraska and Pennsylvania.

“By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September … a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.” However, the website states, “there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

“The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City” and “the Central Labor Union held the second Labor Day.

“Following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. marshals during the Pullman Strike, the United States Congress unanimously voted to approve rush legislation that made Labor Day a national holiday; President Grover Cleveland signed it into law a mere six days after the end of the strike.

“The form for the celebration of Labor Day was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: A street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and spirit de corps of the trade and labor organizations,’” which became the model for Labor Day celebrations.

Labor Day has now become a major weekend for retail sales promotions, and “some retailers claim it is one of the largest sale dates of the year, second only to the Christmas season’s Black Friday.”

“In U.S. sports, Labor Day marks the beginning of the NFL and college football seasons,” according to the website. “NCAA teams usually play their fiest games the weekend of Labor Day, with the NFL traditionally playing their first game the Thursday following Labor Day.”

As Paul Harvey famously said, “And now you know the rest of the story.”

— Harris Sherline is a retired CPA and former chairman and CEO of Santa Ynez Valley Hospital. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.