Just asMemorial Day signals the start of summer, Labor Day signals the end. 

But what is Labor Day really about? To many of us now (and I don’t pretend to be different), it means one last picnic, getting the kids ready for school, and perhaps watching the Jerry Lewis MDA telethon or a U.S. Open match. 

The U.S. Department of Labor though gives us a more detailed history.

Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.

More than 100 years after the first Labor Day observance, there is still some doubt as to who first proposed the holiday for workers.

Some records show that Peter J. McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a cofounder of the American Federation of Labor, was first in suggesting a day to honor those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

But Peter McGuire’s place in Labor Day history has not gone unchallenged. Many believe that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, not Peter McGuire, founded the holiday. Recent research seems to support the contention that Matthew Maguire, later the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The most fascinating part? The first Labor Day was actually celebrated on a Tuesday.

The Workplace Fairness organization is doing a Take Back Labor Day project on it’s Today’s Workplace blog designed to raise awareness of labor issues. Since most of us have the day off, it’s worth a look at — regardless of your political affiliation or what you think of labor unions. 

And finally, while flipping stations yesterday, I caught a song that is, arguably, one of the most well-known songs about work. (I’ll save comment about the top workplace songs for another day….)  On this holiday, you can take a listen.