Labor Day in the United States dates to the 1880s. “The first Labor Day march was a march of unions, planned by the central labor union of New York City,” said UW Madison history professor Will Powell Jones.
“It was a holiday that was initiated by the union movement, but as one speaking for all workers.” Labor Day became increasingly popular around the country, and Congress declared it a national holiday in 1894.
As for politicians getting involved in Labor Day parades, Jones says it’s likely they were at the very first one, despite a statement from the organizers that its purpose was to “warn the politicians that they shall go no farther in pandering to the greed of monopoly, and reducing the condition of the masses.”
He said unions advocated for Labor Day in response to another working class holiday that was begun here in the United State, May Day, which is associated with the Socialist movement.