Since 1882, Labor Day has been a time for parades, picnics, and speeches.
Someone you will read about: Peter J. McGuire
Something you will read about: Labor Day
Near the end of summer, we celebrate a holiday in the United States. Many workers are not at their jobs on that day. But the day is meant to remind us of all that workers have done to make our nation great. The holiday is called "Labor Day." Years ago, many people knew the strain of poor working conditions. Men, women, and young children worked for twelve or more hours a day in factories and shops. Their hours of work brought them little money. Old pictures show the sad and tired faces of the workers of that time.
One boy among the workers who would trudge to and from work each· day, was Peter J. McGuire. Peter was eleven years old when he started working in a furniture factory in New York City. The money this young boy would earn was needed to help support his nine brothers and sisters and their parents. Peter's parents were unhappy about their child
leaving for work each day instead of going to school. The parents worked hard, but they never had enough money to pay the rent and to buy the food needed for their large family. Many children worked at machines to earn money for their families.
As Peter grew older, he became a carpenter. The skills needed for this job were taught to him when he started his work in the furniture factory. A group of carpenters had banded together. They hoped to win higher pay and better working conditions. Peter had great interest in the aims of the carpenters' group, and he joined them. He was able to perform many services for the members. In a few years, the carpenters chose Peter to be president of their group.
Peter was not pleased with the way most workers were treated. Many of them suffered the strain of long hours at their jobs. Many of them were not paid well. As Peter
watched tired workers trudge home from their work, he had an idea. He thought of a plan that might change the workers' lives. He would remind people in New York City that workers help keep our country strong. The workers, too, would realize how needed they were. Peter's plan was to introduce a new holiday. The day would remind everyone that workers actually help to preserve our land and its people. In September 1882, Peter announced the new holiday and called it "Labor Day."
On that September day, ten thousand workers marched through New York City. Bands
played for the marching workers, who wore red, white, and blue. As the marchers paraded through the city, crowds cheered them. At the end of the march, a great picnic was held for the workers and their families. Speeches were made, food was eaten, and games were played. Peter J. McGuire's idea had been a good one. The workers and their families ·felt pride in themselves that day.
A few years later, workers from many states gathered at a meeting. They had heard about the great parade and the picnic that had been held in New York City. They, too, were in favor of a special day to honor workers. A suggestion was made that the Labor Day holiday should be introduced to other parts of the United States. People who had been at the meeting returned to their homes. They told workers in their states about what had been done in New York City.
In five states, people agreed to introduce the holiday as a reminder to everyone of the good that workers do. By 1894, more than half the states celebrated Labor Day. It was during that year that the President of the United States declared that the first Monday in September would be known as Labor Day - a national holiday.
However, more than a holiday was needed to improve the lives of workers. They had done much to preserve our nation. They had helped to make it great. Now laws were needed to actually change their working conditions. New laws were made. Children were no longer allowed to work at dangerous jobs. Working hours were shortened. Workers earned more pay for what they did.
Peter J. McGuire and others like him helped people realize that workers must be treated fairly. Many years have passed since that first Labor Day took place in New York City. Many changes have been made in factories and shops. But we still keep the custom of celebrating Labor Day with parades and speeches and picnics. We continue to do so because we know how important the workers of our nation are to us.
"A Day for the Workers", Comprehension Check
1. Years ago, many workers ______ .
a. spent twelve hours a day at their jobs.
b. had parades and picnics every day.
c. were paid well for the work they did.
d. had safe, comfortable working conditions.
2. Peter J. McGuire's first job was ________ .
a. in a shop.
b. in a furniture factory.
c. in a carpenters' group.
d. in a clothing factory.
3. Peter's parents _______ .
a. wanted Peter to work.
b. sent all their children to work.
c. were unhappy that Peter had to work.
d. did not work.
4. Peter learned how to be ________ .
a. a teacher.
b. a marcher.
c. a shopworker.
d. a carpenter.
5. Peter became the president of ________ .
a. a carpenters' group.
b. a marching band.
c. a furniture factory.
d. a strong nation.
6. Peter wanted all workers to know that ________ .
a. they were not happy.
b. they were helping the United States.
c. they should march every year.
d. holidays were important days.
7. Peter introduced the holiday called _______ .
a. Memorial Day.
b. Workers' Day.
c. Labor Day.
d. Flag Day.
8. The holiday was first introduced to the people of _______ .
b. New Jersey.
d. New York City.
9. Another name for this story could be ________ .
a. "The Beginning of a Holiday."
b. "The Worker."
c. "The City's Day."
d. "The President's Day."
10. This story is mainly about
a. how children worked in factories.
b. how Peter J. McGuire helped workers.
c. what marchers wore in a parade.
d. how to get a better job.
Peter J. McGuire in Wikipedia