Today is Labor Day, a federal and New York State holiday in New York.

Closed today for the Labor Day holiday:

  • government offices, including Riverhead Town Hall
  • courts
  • the U.S. post office (no mail delivery)
  • schools
  • Riverhead Free Library
  • banks
  • N.Y. Stock Exchange

There will be no garbage collection today. The rest of the week remains on its regular schedule.

The LIRR is operating on a Sunday/holiday schedule.

Suffolk Transit S92, S47 and 10C buses are running on a their weekend schedules. All other Suffolk Transit buses will not operate today.

What’s this holiday all about?

Pullman strikers outside Arcade Building in Pullman, Chicago. The Illinois National Guard can be seen guarding the building during the Pullman Railroad Strike in 1894. Photo: Chicago Historical Society

While Labor Day, marked each year on the first Monday in September, signifies the “end of summer” and the beginning of the back-to-school season, it’s officially a day set aside to honor American workers and their achievements.

The holiday grew out of the early days of the American labor movement at the height of the Industrial Revolution in the the late 19th century. It was a time when the average American worked 12-hour days and seven-day weeks, when young children worked in factories, mills and mines and when people often worked in very unsafe working conditions. Labor unions were becoming more vocal and more powerful. They began organizing strikes and protest rallies, demanding better working conditions and the right to collectively negotiate wages and hours.

Labor Day was first celebrated on on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882 in New York City, with a parade and a massive picnic organized by the Central Labor Union. New York, New Jersey and Colorado were among the first states to declare a Labor Day holiday.

Labor Day did not become a federal holiday until 1894, following the Pullman strike and nationwide railway boycott in May of that year, which crippled railroad traffic. When the federal government sent troops to Chicago to break the strike, it touched off riots that resulted in the deaths of more than a dozen workers.

Against this backdrop of massive unrest, Congress, hoping to improve relations with American workers and unions, passed legislation making Labor Day a federal legal holiday. At that point 23 states had already done the same.

Collective bargaining by organized labor unions are credited with workplace reforms that include:

  • Eight-hour work day
  • 40-hour work week
  • Breaks during the work day, including a break for lunch
  • Overtime pay
  • Holiday pay
  • Paid vacation
  • Sick Leave
  • Pensions

Organized labor fought for and secured passage of legislation and legal reforms that are in effect in the U.S. today, including:

  • Child Labor Laws
  • Social Security
  • Minimum Wage
  • Civil Rights Act/Title VII (Prohibits Employer Discrimination)
  • Occupational Safety & Health Act (OSHA)
  • Worker’s Compensation (Worker’s Comp)
  • Unemployment Insurance
  • Workplace safety standards and regulations
  • Employer health care, dental and vision insurance
  • Collective bargaining rights
  • Wrongful termination laws
  • Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967
  • Whistleblower protection laws
  • Sexual harassment laws
  • Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA)
  • Family Medical Leave Act
  • Equal Pay Acts of 1963 & 2011 (Requires employers pay men and women equally for the same amount of work)
  • Laws Ending Sweatshops in the United States
  • Public education for children

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Denise is a veteran local reporter, editor, attorney and former Riverhead Town councilwoman. Her work has been recognized with numerous awards, including investigative reporting and writer of the year awards from the N.Y. Press Association. She is a founder, owner and co-publisher of this website.Email Denise.