Labor Day is one of the rare official holidays that is not focused on one particular, noteworthy historical person, national milestone, or religious observance. At its core, Labor Day salutes the everyday working person. The very history of instituting the holiday includes a laborious struggle of blood, sweat, and tears.
As is the case with the majority of American holidays, Labor Day has morphed into a day of retail inventory clearance sales, and other distractions. It’s the last official holiday of summertime so we relax, picnic, and participate in fun activities–and rightfully so. It’s also one of the holidays that has largely lost the spirit of its original purpose.
As its name states, Labor Day is the holiday meant to salute the efforts of labor, not management. However, in businesses across the nation, management enjoys the holiday while the staffers, especially in service industry, work. Many of the Labor Day workers toil away at extra tasks and put in additional hours.
I was one of those workers who ended up working harder and with additional hours on many holidays, including Labor Day. This used to really “grind my gears”. While the bosses and office staff took the day off, we staffers “minded the shop” and put in extra effort to make up for everyone else’s day off. This is the main reason I do not shop holiday sales, nor take part in non-essential transactions on holidays. The memories of rarely having Labor Day and most other holidays away from work are still vivid. I do not want to add to the already heavy workload of Labor Day workers.
If there seems to be a somewhat militant tone to these words, it has been intentional. Labor Day was quite militant in its beginnings and should be a day of assertiveness in its contemporary form. As is the case with most national holidays, the heart of the holiday is about struggle and resolution of conflict. In today’s world, the ongoing relationships between labor and management are in flux.
These days, it seems that labor is being asked to sacrifice ever more for the benefit of management and owners. This appears to be mainly true in the retail and service sector of the economy. Meanwhile, in what remains of the domestic manufacturing sector, the balance seems to be more fair.
With the steady onset of automation and artificial intelligence, the relationships between labor and management are becoming both blurred and strained. The present rules were largely authored during the nineteenth century–a time when there were stark divisions between labor and management. Workplace roles are more ambiguous today. Yet, we still have the reality in industry, that there are owners and there are employees.
It is unrealistic to expect everyone to become entrepreneurs. People who take up the entreprenuer path usually find themselves working harder than if they remained employees. In effect, they are employees who work for themselves. In this way, the concept of entreprenuership further blurs the line between labor and management.
So what does Labor Day mean in today’s world? In my opinion, it is a day meant to recognize the efforts of every person who works for another person, or within any industry, or who is employed in the public sector. Also, it would be great if there was another Labor Day type holiday to salute the essential workers in medicine, police, firefighting, and retail who must be on duty today. The second holiday’s observance would be something to be negotiated between labor and management–just as the original one had been in its inception–except without the violence.
Of course, these are just my opinions, other workers’ views may vary. I hope you have a fun and meaningful Labor Day.
The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the third Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi. “My grandfather once told me there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to be in the first group; there was much less competition.”