Saturday, September 02, 2006

Who Put the Labor in Labor Day?

We did, that's who.

When I think of labor day, my mind first thinks of the end of summer...the crisp fall weather on the horizon, the cool weather clothes, school starting up again, the return of the good TV shows...

Then there are the Labor Day last bbq of summer, maybe a trip to the beach, the lake, or the shore...

For some people it is a chance to get caught up with some chores around the house, to enjoy a 3-day weekend by sleeping in one extra day, maybe see some friends.

I agree with all of these things. Not a thing wrong with any of them. But at the same time, it's a good time to remember what the heck Labor Day is...unlike our other holidays, like Veterans Day or Memorial Day, it doesn't commemorate war or those who fought for our freedoms. Unlike Christmas, Hanukkah, Diwali, and Easter, it doesn't commemorate any religious significance. Unlike Thanksgiving, it doesn't commemorate a coming together or the fall harvest, or the brief friendship between the pilgrims and the Native Americans.

Instead, Labor Day commemorates commemorates the worker. People who get up every day and go to work, jobs that we love as well as jobs that we hate. Jobs that we do so that we can gain fulfillment, to make the world a better place, to provide a needed service, to simply pay the bills.

Labor day was created by the labor movement, and is dedicated to you and me, American workers. I know that many people have issues with the labor movement, do not like unions and what they represent. They claim that unions are corrupt and do very little to benefit workers, or that they make doing business too expensive for the employer. I would beg you to dig a little deeper, and look at what labor unions have given our country:

Eight-Hour Day

Five-Day Workweek

Health Insurance

Good Pensions

Paid Sick Leave

Fair Treatment for Women, People of Color and Workers with Disabilities

Higher Wages

Overtime Pay

Job Safety

Paid Holidays

Job Security

Severance Pay

Paid Vacations

Family and Medical Leave
So even if you have never belonged to a union in your life (I haven't), let's please stop for a moment this weekend, and thank the unions for what they have given to our country. Also, take a moment to recognize the strength and character of the American worker, upon whose back our economy and democracy rests.

And if, looking at that list, you see some items that don't apply to you, like a 40-hour work week, a pension, or fair treatment, remember that the labor movement is made up of people who have fought for these things, things that don't come easily, things that can easily be taken away from us. Fight for these things. Fight for what you believe in, and to make our country stronger.

Happy Labor Day, everyone!

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