So what IS Labour day. Eh?

What exactly IS labour day?  We in Canada get a long weekend, generally celebrate all the workers in the country and probably scarf down summertime classics like burgers and salad.  But how did labour day start and why?

rosie-the-riveter-1943I’m a very kind person.

I’m writing this post for you, the 4 people who aren’t at the cottage, back to school shopping or suffering from a hangover so large you not only look like death, you’re kind of looking forward to it.

So, you 4, wanna know why you have the day off?

Labour day is a holiday that happens all around the world but in North America, where I am writing to you from, it always happens on the first Monday of September. Which just happens to be today. Which is also why this is going to be a short post, because why should you get the day off, but not me? And don’t bother getting ready to yell at me if you happen to be working today because you’re currently browsing the Internet while you’re supposed to be hard at work. So you’re slacking just like me. Slack all you want at work today, I don’t give a care. Unless you’re a firefighter, cause duh. People still need their cats rescued even if they were the one to chase it up a a tree while wearing a pool float as a hat last night.

All my American friends out there can thank your lucky stars and stripes that you live right next door to Canada because we’re the ones who gave you the idea for Labour Day. Or Labor Day as you call it.

In April, 1872 there was a big stink going on in Toronto, Canada. 10,000 workers took over the streets in the first organized labour demonstration. That was 10% of the population in Toronto at the time. They were protesting on behalf of 26 typographical workers who had been sent to prison for striking. These typographical workers wanted their work week to be shortened from 72 hours to 55 hours. Lazy, lazy, lazy. This was frowned upon so they were sent to jail. Unions were outlawed at the time you see, making striking an illegal offence punishable by being throw in the clink.

For the next decade Canadian unionists and workers organized a day of celebrating and fighting for the rights of labourers. After ten years of celebrating like this, in 1882, the event organizer invited an American union activist to speak at the Canadian labour festival. He was so impressed he immediately went home and started organizing a similar event in New York City for that year.

And you know the rest of the story from there. We get a day off to relax from our 40 hour work week.

Those typographical workers in 1872? I’m sure they knew they were taking a chance by doing what they did. But chances are they didn’t know they would change history. Immediately after the ruckus, the Prime Minister of Canada updated the laws to allow unionization. And whether or not you agree or like unions now, if it weren’t for those typographical workers and the unions that followed you might just be reading this post from work today instead of from your pool float.


  1. Milton says:

    The Arcade in Memphis is a regular tourist stop and pretty good for breakfast but a good bit overpriced. A lot of movie scenes were filmed there which makes it a popular tourist stop just down the street from the National Civil Rights Museum. Groupon has a 40% off coupon at Nearby is Gus’s which is a good place for fried chicken lovers with Southern side dishes like fried okra and mac and cheese. The Ornamental Metal Museum is a must stop for a girl who does stuff. They have all types of metal artisans and a full compliment of working forge and metal projects going on along with some lovely examples of metal working art on display.

  2. leslie says:

    Just a couple of points…

    1. I have decided to dedicate Labor Day (or, Labour Day) to all the mothers and children (ergo, everyone) born all over the world. To me, the ultimate in labor is pushing a 5 to 10 pound lump of wailing flesh out of your body after carrying it (and all it’s accessories) around for 40 or so weeks.

    2. Whatever you do, don’t wear an Elvis wig or cape to Graceland. I have a friend who went with her husband and 2 sons, all dressed in Elvis garb and they were refused entrance. They had to go back to the car, change and act like a completely different family that had just arrived.
    Just saying… awkward.

    • IRS says:

      1. Hey, you already get Mother’s Day! And now you want a second day? Just for carrying the baby, developing stretch marks and hemorrhoids, pushing it like a mid size frozen turkey through an opening designed for a smallish chicken drumstick at best, and then spending the next 18-20 years (or 28-30) feeding, clothing and housing an ingrateful brat, all the while losing your youth, energy, and retirement nest egg, while baby daddy drinks beer and watches football? For THAT you expect a second day? Sheesh!

      2. What the hell? If ever there was a place to dress like a corpulent, over the hill lounge singer, who never met a rhinestone or a strip of bacon he didn’t love, it’s there. Why won’t they let you in if you’re dressed as Elvis? Are they afraid other patrons will be confused? Do they not want you to sully the elegance and gravitas of Elvis’ memory? *ROFLMFAO* And is there a sign posted near the cash register advising guests of this rule?

  3. Debbie says:

    I have very mixed feelings about unions. I’ll leave out the details, but when we were kids, veiled threats were made about our lives to my father by a union. We could not even walk to the bust stop alone. We had a small family business. As a teacher, my union both worked for me and against me. Sadly, prejudice trumped union help when I needed it. Later on, a union was helpful in making sure I received the benefits I deserved.

    BTW – I’m one of the four – an empty-nester without a cottage who doesn’t drink.

  4. Sboo says:

    If the weather is nice, you might enjoy a steamboat tour on the Mississippi. You get some nice views of the town and learn some of its history, plus they sell local beer on board! BBQ is a given; I like Central. Breakfast at the Arcade. Never been to Graceland though.

    Heading west into Arkansas, cross the Spring and White rivers (great canoeing, if you’re a fan) and into the Ozarks. You can turn south to Little Rock or keep on to Fayetteville/Bentonville where you can visit our fabulous Crystal Bridges museum and see Rosie in person!

    • Karen says:

      I think our days are pretty much filled now, but we have a couple of nights to fill (with something other than bars). Because one night of Beale street will be enough I think. :) ~ karen!

  5. Scott says:

    Have a Grand time in Tennessee. Try the ribs at the Rendezvous.

    • Karen says:

      I’ve actually heard from a very, very reputable source (a friend of mine) that the ribs at the Rendezvous aren’t what they once were. :/ This person is a competitive BBQer who often competes in Memphis … so I’m torn. ~ karen!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *