LivingScientific curiosities about work

Scientific curiosities about work

At the end of the 19th century, many people worked 12 hours a day, seven days a week, often in physically demanding jobs and also quite poorly paid. As if this were not enough, children also worked, on farms, in factories and in mines. Working conditions were often harsh and unsafe. The salary was miserable. Attempts to organize were met with hostility and occasionally violence by chiefs and governments.

Thus, while much of the social tension that gave rise to the American labor movement still remains, many things have changed today.

It was in this context that US workers staged their first Labor Day strike – albeit without an official name at this time – marching from New York City Hall to a giant picnic in a residential area park on September 5. 1882. This first strike was organized by the Central Labor Union and, although who deserves credit for the original idea is unclear, it probably had an ancestor in Ireland named Mag Uidhir. Some argue that machinist Matthew Maguire was the first to come up with the idea; others that it was the carpenter and cofounder of the American Federation of Labor Peter McGuire.

Either way, the idea became a reality, and after a couple of years, industrial cities across the country held parades in late summer to commemorate the labor movement. Oregon became the first state to make it a public holiday in 1887, and when it became a federal holiday in 1894, 29 other states had officially adopted the celebration.


The establishment of Labor Day did not stop conflicts between workers and employers. The Lattimer massacre, in which 19 miners were killed by a Pennsylvania police officer, is a case in point.

Company owners began to accept that workers’ demands for better treatment were legitimate in the 20th century.

 

Knowing its history, today we approach the scientific curiosities of the work in honor of this celebration.

 

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