The True Story Of Labor Day: Debunking The Myth



Labor Day and May Day: Two Workers’ Holidays

As we enter the Labor Day weekend, many on the left will repeat the myth that Labor Day has no historical significance and is simply a “gift” from capitalist politicians to break up the international solidarity of American workers by providing an alternative to May Day. For many years, I accepted this myth, even while marching with my union comrades in the annual Labor Day Parades in Wilmington, California. Then I learned that the first Labor Day was in 1882, four years BEFORE Haymarket and eight years BEFORE the first international May Day in 1890. How, then, could it have originated as an alternative to May Day? A little historical research revealed a much different, and more complex.

This research showed that both Labor Day and May Day grew out of American labor struggles in the 1880s and, surprisingly, that the same man, Peter J. McGuire (1852-1906), who founded the International Brotherhood of Carpenters, is claimed as the “father” of both Labor Day and May Day! However, as the labor movement developed in the 1890s and into the 20th Century, different factions favored one rather than the other and began to pit the two against each other. But as Yale historian David Montgomery notes, “Little is gained by calling one holiday real and the other phony. We need to know what both have meant to workers.” Otherwise, an opportunity to educate the U.S. working class about its real history will be lost.

Let us, then, review the intertwined history of Labor Day and May Day within the general struggle for the emancipation of the working class.

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2 Replies to “The True Story Of Labor Day: Debunking The Myth”

  1. This holiday is what we might term a “legacy”. It is a way of preserving and perpetually remembering a group accomplishment.

    Back prior to the 1970s, HWA’s legacy was considered to be the revival of a lost message. The validation for that revival would have been the actual occurrence of what he foretold. It was supposed to be what would be remembered and celebrated in the Millennium, and throughout eternity. Happily for all of us, his vision failed to materialize, and the larger, organized effort to promote it has been disbanded and dispersed. Very few notice, and very few care. Never having become mainstream, participants have been marginalized into irrelevance.

    Yet, these “ACOGs” as we call them, still go through the motions of regaining notice and relevance, yet find that time has passed their very dated materials by. They had sought relevance not for a single holiday, but for a handful of picked and chosen ones, all with the signatures of YHWH (who they claim was actually Jesus Christ), Moses, and Herbert Armstrong. I submit that if they really wish to be remembered, the best course would be through the building of lasting memorials. Buildings, auditioriums, colleges, and restored mansions have all failed. It would probably be best at this point for them to turn to the deep symbolism of something like death burial mounds! These are known to have lasted for centuries


  2. Thanks for commenting Bob.

    Yes, the ACOG’s will be remembered for nothing, having accomplished nothing. This is a fitting tribute for them but the chances are that in a couple decades they will be forgotten and HWA’s doctrines will be scattered to the wind never to be revived. Someone give me a amen!

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