The first Labor Day in 1882 looked quite different than the holiday we know today. It was a celebration, but one of protest. The Industrial Revolution was in full swing and laborers in the Northeast were working 12 hours days, 7 days a week in factories to earn a basic living. Children as young as 5 were working in factories for just a fraction of an adult wage. As workers organized to seek breaks, safe working conditions and in many cases fresh air, the idea of a holiday to celebrate workers and their contributions emerged.

On September 5th, 1882, actually a Tuesday, thousands of workers in New York City took unpaid time off to march to city hall and protest, and did so again around the country each year until the holiday was recognized by Congress in 1894 and signed into law by President Grover Cleveland.

Today, we celebrate Labor Day in a very different way. It is a national holiday filled with public and family gatherings and marks the beginning of fall, back to school and the upcoming holiday season.

This Labor Day, almost 140 years later, another group is working long shifts with no relief in sight. The doctors, nurses and other healthcare professionals at our East Texas’ hospitals continue to treat the sick under highly stressful conditions as the Delta variant of Covid-19 races across the country. It’s a time to be reminded, appreciate and celebrate everything they do.

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Shelley Swanzy National