Things you should know about Labor Day
Labor Day is the perfect day to explain to kids complaining about going back to school just how much worse things could be for them.
In fact, they once were: Kids were forced into back-breaking jobs day and night in mines, textiles, glass factories, canneries and other places where children don't belong. Labor activists eventually ended child labor -- and won better working conditions for adult workers, including the eight-hour work day.
Today, though, few schools teach in depth about the labor movement and I doubt many kids know what the holiday is intended to honor.
To help you use this holiday as a learning experience for your children -- which is exactly what I knew you were planning to do today -- here are some facts and figures and history kindly assembled by the U.S. Census Bureau and other government agencies.
It’s your government at work.
Celebrated--On the first Monday in September, Labor Day honors the social and economic contributions that the American worker has made to the growth nealth and prosperity of the country.
It was first celebrated in this country in the 1880s -- at a time when people commonly worked 12-hour days. The first Labor Day rally, in 1882, was in support of an eight-hour workday.
Founder of Labor Day:There is still some doubt about who first proposed a holiday to honor workers. Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder 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 McGuire's claim on Labor Day history has been challenged; 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, and the first Labor Day rally was held that year. By 1893, more than half the states were observing a “Labor Day” on one day or another, and Congress passed a bill to establish a federal holiday in 1894. President Grover Cleveland signed the bill soon afterward, designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day.
Who Are We Celebrating?
Number of people 16 and older in the nation’s labor force in May 2010.
Percentage of full-time workers 18 to 64 covered by health insurance during all or part of 2008.
Percentage of workers in private industry who receive a paid vacation as one of their employment benefits.
The Commute to Work
Number of commuters who leave for work between midnight and 5:59 a.m. They represent 13 percent of all commuters.
Percentage of workers who drive alone to work. Another 11 percent carpool and 5 percent take public transportation (excluding taxicabs).
The average time it takes people in the nation to commute to work. New York and Maryland had the most time-consuming commutes, averaging 31.6 and 31.5 minutes. (They are not significantly different from one another.)
Number of workers who face extreme commutes to work of 90 or more minutes each day.
Americans work in a variety of occupations. Here is a sampling:
Teachers 7.2 million
Chief executives 1.7 million
Janitors and building cleaners 2.1 million
Computer software engineers 1.0 million
Aerospace engineers 137,000
Registered nurses 2.8 million
Social workers 729,000
Hairdressers, hairstylists and cosmetologists 773,000
Chefs and head cooks 351,000
Customer service representatives 1.9 million
Taxi drivers and chauffeurs 373,000
Musicians, singers and related workers 186,000
Artists and related workers 213,000
Gaming services workers (gambling) 111,000
Tax preparers 105,000
Service station attendants 87,000
Inspectors, testers, sorters, samplers and weighers 751,000
Farmers and ranchers 751,000
Number of workers who hold down more than one job. So-called moonlighters comprise 5 percent of the working population. Of these, 4 million work full time at their primary job and part time at their other job.
Number of moonlighters who work full time at two jobs.
Number of self-employed workers.
Number of female workers 16 and older in management, professional and related occupations. Among male workers 6 and older, 24.7 million were employed in management, professional and related occupations.
Percentage of workers 16 and older who work more than 40 hours a week. About 7 percent work 60 or more hours a week.
Median number of years workers have been with their current employer. About 10 percent of those employed have been with their current employer for 20 or more years.
Number of independent contractors.
Number of labor union members nationwide. About 12 percent of wage and salary workers belong to unions, with Alaska, Hawaii and New York having among the highest rates of any state. North Carolina has one of the lowest rates, 3 percent.
Percentage decline in employment in the United States, between September 2008 and September 2009. Employment declined in 329 of the 334 largest counties (large counties are defined as having employment levels of 75,000 or more).
Percentage decline in Elkhart County, Ind., between September 2008 and September 2009, the largest decline in employment among the 334 largest counties. Los Angles County saw the largest numerical loss over the period: 278,000.
Percentage increase in employment in Yakima County, Wash., between September 2008 and September 2009, the largest percentage increase among the nation’s 334 largest counties.
The number of people who work at home.
$46,367 and $35,745
The 2008 real median earnings for male and female full-time, year-round workers, respectively.
Projected percentage growth from 2006 to 2016 in the number of network systems and data communication analysts. Forecasters expect this occupation to grow at a faster rate than any other. Meanwhile, the occupation expected to add more positions over this period than any other is registered nurses (587,000).
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| September 6, 2010; 6:00 AM ET
Categories: Civics Education, History | Tags: history of labor, labor day, labor day facts
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