Labor Day Pop Quiz: What Are We Really Celebrating This Weekend?

labor day parade posterMost people only think of Labor Day as a nice excuse for long weekend, the beginning of fall, or the start of football season. But the last holiday of summer is more than a day off work: It's also one of the most controversial of American holidays, a celebration of the laborers -- and more specifically, the unionized laborers -- who made America strong. In honor of America's workers, we put together this little quiz.

If you've ever wondered what Labor Day means, how it came into being, or why it's still important, take a peek.

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Labor Day Pop Quiz
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Labor Day Pop Quiz: What Are We Really Celebrating This Weekend?

A. The 1894 Pullman factory strike
B. The 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire
C. The U.S. entered World War I in 1917
D. The movie "Norma Rae" came out in 1979

When the Pullman Palace Car Co. cut wages in 1894, 4,000 employees went on strike. Claiming that the strike interfered with mail service, President Grover Cleveland sent in 12,000 Army soldiers -- a move that broke the strike, but also resulted in the deaths of 13 strikers. Fearing a backlash from unions across the country, Congress quickly moved to declare Labor Day an official holiday. Cleveland signed the Labor Day bill into law six days after the end of the Pullman strike.

A. A fat cat
B. A scabby rat
C. A low-down dog
D. A slippery snake

For more than 20 years, unions across the country have employed the services of "Scabby the Rat," a huge, inflatable rodent, to publicize their problems with management. Big Sky Balloons and Searchlights, an Illinois company, sells as many as 200 of the inflatable rats every year. Scabbies range from 6 feet to 25 feet tall.

A. Nobody likes Mondays
B. Most children aren't in school on that day, and organizers didn't want to interfere with the school year
C. It is conveniently timed between the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving
D. In 1894, it was a handy time to begin the fall election season

In 1894, worker holidays were few and far between. Labor Day was positioned to break up the long haul between July and November.

A. 1890s
B. 1930s
C. 1950s
D. 1990s

After the Great Depression and World War II, union membership surged. By the mid-1950s, when organized labor hit its highest point, 35 percent of workers were unionized.

A. Growing
B. Shrinking

Union membership hit 11.3 percent in 2013, its lowest level in more than 70 years.

A. Yes
B. No
C. Does Canada count?

Canada also celebrates Labor Day on the first Monday in September, although Canadians refer to it as "Labour Day." In most other countries, May Day, or May 1, is the annual day for commemorating workers.

A. The 1894 Pullman factory strike
B. The 1959 steel strike
C. The 1970 postal strike
D. The 1994 Major League Baseball strike

Over the course of the five-month 1959 steel strike, approximately 500,000 steel workers left work, closing down almost every steel mill in the U.S.

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