Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a holiday.

  • Oregon state flag
Oregon state flag
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Labor Day, celebrated on the first Monday in September in the United States, honors workers and their contributions to the nation. Congress passed a bill signed by President Grover Cleveland making it an official federal holiday in 1894, but state observations date back to 1887. Five different states observed Labor Day that year, but Oregon came first; the state’s bill to recognize the holiday became law on February 21, 1887. 

Strangely — and of little use to people with weekday work schedules — Oregon’s first Labor Day was celebrated not in September, but the first Saturday in June. After Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York each passed laws recognizing Labor Day on the now-traditional September date, Oregon moved its own observance to match. The September date comes from the first-ever Labor Day demonstration, which was organized by the Central Labor Union (a coalition of local labor unions) and held in New York City on September 5, 1882. It included a one-day strike, a parade, and, fitting with more modern Labor Day celebrations, a giant picnic. Unlike May Day, an international observance on May 1 that commemorates the 1886 Haymarket Riot in Chicago, there was no particular significance to the timing of the demonstration — it likely just fell roughly between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving on the calendar. In the ensuing years, pro-worker demonstrations on the first Monday in September started cropping up throughout the country, eventually gaining enough steam to become a national holiday.

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