Skip to main content

Rep. Eric Cantor Falsely Claims Labor Day Honors Business Owners

Rep. Eric Cantor (R-VA), on Monday, claimed that Labor Day was a celebration of business owners, instead of workers, reports

Rep. Cantor said in a statement: “Today, we celebrate those who have taken a risk, worked hard, built a business and earned their own success. I am committed to keeping taxes low and reducing red tape to make it easier for Virginia’s small business owners to start hiring again, create more jobs and ensure a thriving economy for the future so more people can achieve the American dream.”

In reality, Labor Day celebrates the victories of labor unions -- not business owners -- who fought for workers 'rights such as 8-hour work days, overtime, safe working conditions, unemployment benefits and much more. Some workers died in demonstrations for benefits that most Americans take for granted.

Interestingly, the the Dept. of Labor itself admits there is confusion about the origins of the holiday. According to the government:

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire's place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

As far as the first Labor Day holiday is concerned:

The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City, in accordance with the plans of the Central Labor Union. The Central Labor Union held its second Labor Day holiday just a year later, on September 5, 1883.

In 1884 the first Monday in September was selected as the holiday, as originally proposed, and the Central Labor Union urged similar organizations in other cities to follow the example of New York and celebrate a "workingmen's holiday" on that date. The idea spread with the growth of labor organizations, and in 1885 Labor Day was celebrated in many industrial centers of the country.


Popular Video