September 23, 2021

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Labor day: three crucial moments in history | Roce today

Labor Day became an official federal holiday in 1894, thanks to President Grover Cleveland. At its core, the day is meant to celebrate the common worker.

But do you hear Labor Day and what comes to your mind? Grilled hot dogs, late summer? Maybe the back to school balances?

“Labor Day should be a time when we all reflect on the critical contributions of workers to this country’s political, economic and cultural development,” said Claudrena Harold, a history professor at the University of Virginia.

Three moments in labor history, in particular, are central to the history of the United States, the modern labor movement, and the workplace today, according to historians and labor scholars.

“As we face the challenges of rising levels of wage and income inequality, dangerous working conditions amidst COVID, there are lessons we can learn from the past,” Harold told NPR.

1911: The Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire

The early 1900s were a period of massive industrialization, in which factory work became a common job often done by young immigrant workers, especially women.

The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York has become the site of one of the deadliest industrial disasters in US history. The tragedy that took place there on March 25, 1911 marked a major turning point in the history of work and helped establish modern-day occupational safety standards.