The FreshBooks office and support lines were closed yesterday in celebration of Labour Day.
Ahhh, Labour day, best known as the last long weekend of the summer. It’s the one last chance you can get to do all your fun summer activities until autumn, along with the cold front, starts to creep in. (At least, in Toronto anyways!) More importantly, it’s a chance to celebrate and pay tribute to the labour movement and the social and economic achievements of all.
That said, did you ever ponder where Labour Day came from? The answer might surprise you. I bet you didn’t know that Labour Day was originated in Canada!
On April 14, 1872, a big parade was staged in support of the Toronto Typographical Union’s strike for a 58-hour work-week. The Typographical Union had been on strike since March 25th of that year, and the Toronto Trades Assembly (TTA) called upon its 27 unions to demonstrate in support. Needless to say, this demonstration made the editor of the Toronto Globe and Canadian politician George Brown furious, and he fought back by pressing the police to charge the Typographical Union with conspiracy.
Twenty-four leaders of the Typographical Union were arrested, which didn’t go so well with the TTA. On September 3rd, there was another demonstration for the arrest; this time, not just in Toronto, but also in Ottawa, where the parliament reside.
This demonstration finally caught the attention of Sir John A. Macdonald, the Prime Minister at the time. He promised to repeal the anti-union laws, and passed the Trade Union Act on June 14, 1873. Pretty soon, all union demanded a 54-hour work week.
So where did the American Labour day came from, you ask? Well, the Toronto Trades and Labour council, the successor to the TTA, have been hosting a celebration every spring for the workers since the 1872 incidents. For the celebration on July 22, 1882, the council asked American Peter J. McGuire, co-founder of the American Federation of Labour, to speak.
Following that event, McGuire and the Knights of Labour organized a similar parade based on the Canadian event on September 5th, 1882 in New York City, which has become a tradition since. Pressure for Labour day to become a national holiday started to mount in both Canada and the United States, and on June 28th, 1894, and July 23rd, 1894, Labour day was officially recognized as a national holiday in United States and Canada respectively.
So come this weekend, do take the time to thank the Toronto Typographical Union, the Toronto Trades Assembly, Peter J. McGuire, and pretty much every worker on the planet for helping to build strength, prosperity, and well-being for our respective nations. Hope you’re haveing a great and safe long weekend!