(WKBN) — The first Monday in September hasn’t always been a day for cookouts and fun in the sun.
Labor Day honors the American labor movement, honoring the social and economic achievements of American workers.
The first labor day parade was held in New York City in 1882, and it gained traction from there. Celebrations and picnics started all over the United States.
By 1894, it was celebrated in 30 different states and became a federal holiday.
“Here in Youngstown and the Mahoning Valley, our heritage is in labor and industry,” says Jessica Trickett of the Mahoning Valley Historical Society.
Trickett says the freedoms we enjoy today — especially right here in the Valley — were built on the backs of people who came before us.
“The reason again that we have minimum wages and things like that are because the people fought for those things,” says Trickett. “It’s not just about of course the end of summer or a Labor Day sale, it’s about people who really fought for those rights.”
Tom Leary with the Youngstown Historical Center of Industry and Labor says Youngstown was a symbol of a lot of the changes that took place in the American economy and labor relations in the 19th and 20th centuries.
“A good bit of that had to do with the development of collective bargaining and heavy mass production industries like steel,” says Leary.
This is a theme that hits home for Sam Camens, whose grandfather was a longtime labor leader in the Mahoning Valley.
The health care and benefits expert consults large corporations. Camens says the career was inspired by his grandfather’s passion for equality and fairness.
“Diversity, equity and inclusion is what we’d call it today, but at that time it was making sure folks had time on weekends, had paid time off, had life insurance and other benefits,” says Camens.
But as for the future of labor in the Valley, experts believe we are moving away from an industrial economy and more toward service and entertainment.
“It’s a different landscape of labor, but we’re still a working population,” says Trickett.