Labour Day has an important and long history in Canada and North America.
The holiday can be traced to 1872 and the Toronto Typographical Union that went on strike to secure a 9 hour working day, and specifically a 58 hour workweek (the so-called “Nine Hour Movement”). The demand was refused by employers, including The Globe (later to become the Globe and Mail). In fact, employers’ resistance was strong enough to result in the imprisonment of strikers under the charge of criminal conspiracy (laws going as far back as 1792). The workers’ movement was able to garner sufficient public support such that Sir John A. Macdonald promised to repeal all laws against trade unions. Following the repeal of such laws the Canadian Labour Congress was formed in 1883.
Labour leaders from the United States were so inspired by the Nine Hour Movement celebrations that it resulted in the first US “Labor Day” holiday in September of 1882. Under pressure, the Canadian government subsequently and in 1894 declared Labour Day as an official holiday.
While the holiday tends to focus on the rights of unionized workers, the day is intended to mark the progress for all workers, both unionized and non-unionized.
For more information on the continuing evolution of Canada’s labour laws, please see my post on Getting Closer to a Revamped Labour Market in Ontario
Return to Blog