NY, NEW YORK (WHTM) — In the early days of the New Deal, New York City was one of the first cities in the country to open up to foreign workers.
“The New Deal was a time when New York had no trade unions, and there were no workers in New Yorks factories,” writes historian David J. Schuster in his book New York: The Year That Changed America.
So, Schuster writes, when a group of young immigrant labor leaders gathered in the city to plan a “Day of Labor” in 1883, it was an unprecedented opportunity to show the world that there was a working class in the nation.
“They made the most of their platform and created an image of New York as the center of the American economy, a place where the working man could prosper and a nation of immigrants could flourish,” he writes.
“The slogan was ‘Let us work together, and if necessary, we will make New York the most prosperous city in the world.'”
The “Day,” which became known as “The New Year’s Day,” would become an annual celebration that would bring together thousands of workers in the New York metropolitan area to show that there could be “a good life” in the United States.
It was also the first time that workers from outside the United Nations system would be invited to participate in a national holiday celebration.
It also marks the centennial of the nation’s first national day of labor in 1884.
A group of workers from New York’s garment industry would hold a “day of labor” on New Year´s Eve, and thousands of New Yorkers would participate in the celebrations that day.
Schuster describes the workers’ celebration as a “historic and momentous event” that “remembered the American experiment of the 1868 New Deal.”
It was “an extraordinary time for workers to demonstrate their ability to organize and forge unions, to take risks in pursuit of justice, and to put themselves at the forefront of their communities,” he wrote.
After the New Year, the country would “be awash in new ideas, new hopes, new opportunities,” he continued.
“The promise of a new day of work was born.”
For decades, the “Day” has been the focus of celebrations across the country, from Los Angeles to Atlanta to New Orleans to Washington, D.C.
In 2017, the event took place on the National Mall in front of the Statue of Liberty.
It was an extraordinary event, with more than 150,000 people taking part in the annual celebration.
The New York Times article notes that the “day” “was the first national holiday that was not the national holiday of the United Kingdom, which had just celebrated its own national day in 1889.”
It was the first such celebration in the U.S. since the 1917 National Day of Unionism.
Schuster says that the day “was a milestone in the development of an American labor movement.”
“It signaled that a working-class movement was in the process of becoming established in American society,” he said.
But for many, the celebration was a reminder of how long the nation had been waiting for “an opportunity to build a new nation.”
“The American working class had been languishing in a state of decline, with its political and social institutions, and its ability to compete with the rest of the world, for decades,” he continues.
“So the day was the beginning of the end of that.
It signaled the start of the return of a once-in-a-generation opportunity to rebuild that old, struggling and demoralized working class.”
The article goes on to describe the “frenzied spirit” of the day, with the “unstoppable momentum of the crowd” creating “a storm of activity and celebration.”
“It was a scene to behold,” Schuster wrote.