What Labor Day means?

At the time Labor Day was formed, unions were fighting for “very specific improvements in their working conditions,” Freeman said.

Workers were fighting hard for the eight-hour work day most workers enjoy today. 

And Labor Day was an opportunity for them to come together to discuss their priorities – and for the country to acknowledge the contributions workers make to society.

But there was also a more radical political thread to the Labor Day celebration, Freeman says. 

The Knights of Labor were exploring the idea that “what we call the capitalist or industrial system was fundamentally exploitative,” he said. 

“It introduced kind of inequities and inequalities, not just in wealth, but also in power. 

So they wanted a greater say in society for working people.”

“Back when Labor Day began, there were a lot of voices that were fundamentally challenging this emerging system,” Freeman added. 

Labor leaders at the time advocated for alternatives to the “capitalist wage system,” like collective ownership of corporations or socialism.

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