You probably wouldn’t think to connect a 19th century pope with an American Holiday but Leo XIII and Labor Day are at least related. Leo wrote the encyclical Rerum Novarum (Revolutionary Change) in 1891. It is subtitled: Rights and Duties of Capital and Labor. In it Leo deals with the radical change that had come upon humanity in the transition from an agrarian society to an industrial society. In the time of a growing labor movement he lifts up the dignity of work and workers. He writes of things like the rights to a living wage, health care, and collective bargaining. The encyclical is considered the beginning of Catholic Social Teaching and the foundation of The Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers, which is one of the seven themes of CST that have been developed over the years through the writings of many popes.
Three years after Rerum Novarum Labor Day became a federal holiday in the United States, but there was still a lot of work to do. These were, after all, still the days of child labor and 12-hour work days. And the Catholic Church was very much a part of the work of the labor movement of the 19th and 20th centuries.
So remember that Labor Day is more than just the end of summer and a sale at Home Depot. And remember that the church has its own day to honor labor, the Feast of Joseph the Worker on May 1st.