The Creation and Celebration of Labor Day

In Creating Happiness, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

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If you ask most people, “What is Labor Day?” you will most likely get the answer that it is the last holiday of the summer. For me, that was never an understandable reason for creating a holiday so I had to do some further research.

Labor Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the first Monday in September. The first big Labor Day in the United States was observed on September 5, 1882, by the Central Labor Union of New York. It became a federal holiday in 1894.

“I celebrate you this Labor Day and every day of the year. And I think that you should all do the same. You have earned it.Barbara Jacoby

Labor Day is the day that we recognize all of the hard work of the American people. If you read the information available regarding the workers in America in comparison to those in other developed nations, you will find that we are the most overworked. Check out this article titled “The U.S. is the Most Overworked Developed Nation in the World” dated January 13, 2020 from just before the start of the pandemic that has even intensified everything and these  statistics.

Here are just two extracts from that article:

American Work-Life Balance

  • According to the Center for American PROGRESS on the topic of work and family life balance, “in 1960, only 20 percent of mothers worked. Today, 70 percent of American children live in households where all adults are employed.”. U.S. Department of Labor statistics back up this data, and notes that 75% of those women working full time. I don’t care who stays home and who works in terms of gender (work opportunity equality for all – it’s a family choice). Either way, when all adults are working (single or with a partner), that’s a huge hit to the American family and free-time in the American household.
  • The U.S. is the ONLY country in the Americas without a national paid parental leave benefit. The average is over 12 weeks of paid leave anywhere other than Europe and over 20 weeks in Europe.
  • Zero industrialized nations are without a mandatory option for new parents to take parental leave. That is, except for the United States.

And how about these statistics:

American Average Work Hours

  • At least 134 countries have laws setting the maximum length of the work week; the U.S. does not.
  • In the U.S., 85.8 percent of males and 66.5 percent of females work more than 40 hours per week.
  • According to the ILO, “Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers.”
  • Using data by the U.S. BLS, the average productivity per American worker has increased 400% since 1950. One way to look at that is that it should only take one-quarter the work hours, or 11 hours per week, to afford the same standard of living as a worker in 1950 (or our standard of living should be 4 times higher). Is that the case? Obviously not. Someone is profiting, it’s just not the average American worker.

While there are many reasons why this may be the case, based upon my own personal conversations with others over the years,I think that the single biggest reason is that we need to do whatever necessary in order to keep the jobs that we do have so that we can keep our insurance coverage, especially for those who have medical conditions like cancer. If you talk to some of the older members of the workforce, they are working longer and harder for less pay for this very reason.

This insurance coverage often includes prescription coverage and vision care as well. Even speaking to younger people who would like to make a career change or those who are having a tough time finding a job, medical insurance is one of the main reasons for staying in a current position or taking any sort of job that offers insurance coverage. However, even if they would like to retire or make a career change or move on to start a new business, it is very likely that they are financially unable to do so because of the cost for healthcare that they would have to pay.

So maybe there aren’t any marching bands and banners waving to herald all of the hard-working people in this country on Labor Day. Maybe there aren’t any big speeches acknowledging the sacrifices made by so many on a daily basis whose efforts are providing a living for themselves and/or their families. Maybe there are many who will never know what it is like to put in a hard day’s work. That doesn’t mean that I am not going to acknowledge every single person out there who does work or has worked, whether at home or outside of the home, to provide for themselves and their families. I celebrate you this Labor Day and every day of the year. And I think that you should all do the same. You have earned it.