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The origins of Labor Day can be traced back to the Knights of Labor in the United States, and a parade organized by them at that time on September 5, 1882 in New York City. In 1884 another parade was held, and the Knights passed resolutions to make this an annual event. Other labour organizations (and there were many), but notably the affiliates of the International Workingmen's Association who were seen as a hotbed of socialists and anarchists, favoured a May 1 holiday. With the event of Chicago's Haymarket riots in early May of 1886, president Grover Cleveland believed that a May 1 holiday could become an opportunity to commemorate the riots. He quickly moved in 1887 to support the position of the Knights of Labor and their date for Labor Day. The date was adopted in Canada in 1894 by the government of Prime Minister John Thompson, although the concept of a Labour Day actually originated with marches in both Toronto and Ottawa in 1872.
Labor Day has been celebrated on the first Monday in September in the United States and Canada since the 1880s. Many other countries celebrate Labour Day along with May Day on May 1, a date that has been recognized in the United States since the 1930s as Loyalty Day, though rarely practiced.
In Australia, Labour Day is October 1 in the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and South Australia. In the Northern Territory it is called May Day but (unlike in most other countries with such a holiday) occurs on May 5, not May 1.
In New Zealand, Labour Day is a public holiday held on the 4th Monday in October. Its origins are traced back to the 8 hour working day movement that arose in the newly founded Wellington colony in 1840, primarily because of carpenter Samuel Parnell's refusal to work more than 8 hours a day. He encouraged other trademen to also only work for 8 hours a day and in October 1840 a workers meeting passed a resolution supporting the idea. On 28 October 1890, the fiftieth anniversary of the 8 hour day was commemorated with a parade. The event was then celebrated annually in late October as either Labour Day or Eight-Hour Demonstration Day. In 1899 government legislated that the day be a public holiday from 1900. The day was celebrated on different days in different provinces. This lead to ship-owners complaining that seamen were taking excessive holidays by having one Labour Day in one port then another in their next port. In 1910 the government "Mondayised" the holiday so that it would be observed on the same day throughout the nation. See: Labour Day: A History - from NZHistory.net.nz
Labor Day in the United States
According to highway accident statistics, the Labor Day weekend is the most dangerous weekend of the year to travel on US highways. The reason is believed to be that it is the last long weekend before many schools start. Families with school-age children take it as the last chance to travel before the end of summer. A few teenagers and young adults view it as the last weekend to get drunk before returning to school. Drunk driving and boating and extra traffic both contribute to the high fatality rate over the weekend, and law enforcement is typically very visible on the roads and waterways at this time.