What is “Labor Day”?

In Creating Happiness, Recent Posts by Barbara Jacoby

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 some, it marks the return to school after summer vacation. And although I have written about every other holiday over the last several years, I guess it had never crossed my mind to recognize Labor Day in the same way and I am not exactly sure why that is the case.

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

According to Wikipedia (one of only a very few sources that even defines the origin of the holiday), 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, when, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland reconciled with the labor movement. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. The September date originally chosen by the CLU of New York and observed by many of the nation’s trade unions for the past several years was selected rather than the more widespread International Workers’ Day because Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair, which it had been observed to commemorate All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories have made it a statutory holiday.

Well, I guess that helps me to understand why Labor Day is not heralded as much as all of our other national holidays. After all, with a beginning like that, I am sure that most are more than happy to celebrate it as being the end of summer. However, I don’t think that it is fair to continue doing that and I would like to acknowledge the real meaning of this holiday.

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 the statistics.

Here is just one statistic from that article:
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 is the case, I believe that the single biggest reasons are that we need to do whatever necessary in order to keep the jobs that we do have and to earn extra money, if possible, by working overtime in order to survive these tough economic times. And the saddest part of this is that just about every single person that I know is not doing the kind/type of work that they really love.

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 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.