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10 little-known facts about American labor and Labor Day

Labor Day parade in Marietta, Ohio.
Labor Day parade in Marietta, Ohio.
Jason Perlman/Flickr

Labor Day used to signify the last day of summer vacation, the turning point when voters started paying attention to the November election, the date when the Dodgers or Angels being in first place actually meant something.

But what do you really know about "labor" part of Labor Day? Here are ten facts to share over the weekend holiday.

  1. California has a greater number of union members than any other state  - 2.4 million.
  2. California lags behind New York in the percentage of its population that belongs to a union - nearly one in four, or 24 percent of New Yorkers are union members. About one in six, or 16 percent of Californians are union members
  3. Teachers are the largest group of union workers nationwide
  4. More than a third of all public sector workers are union members
  5. Just one in 15 workers in the private sector are union members
  6. The lowest number of union members can be found in agriculture, finance, and restaurants and bars - just about one percent of that population.
  7. The first Labor Day holiday wasn't on a Monday. The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated Tuesday, September 5, 1882, in New York City.
  8. The Jewelers Union of Newark marched in that first Manhattan parade, bringing a band that played a lesser known hit "When I Put This Uniform On" from Patience, the Gilbert and Sullivan comic opera.
  9. A dozen years later, in 1894, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday.
  10. There's a dispute about who invented Labor Day; but whoever it was, his name was McGuire - or is it Maguire? Some say Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners, first suggested a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold." But there's also a machinist named Matthew Maguire of the International Association of Machinists who is said to have proposed the holiday in 1882.

Patience - When I First Put This Uniform On