Monday, September 3, 2012

Why Labor Day?

Like most American civil holidays, we rarely take the time to recognize the meaning and reason of Labor Day.  Memorial Day has become an unofficial kick-off to summer, as likely to be marked by cook-outs and pool openings as by ceremonies to honor fallen soldiers.  And, Labor day is more likely seen as the last hurrah of the season than a day to recognize the contributions of Labor to the American society.

In 2012, Labor deserves a Day.  In the face of job losses and a struggling economy, labor still takes its kicks, even when down.  Originally conceived, Labor day was placed on the first Monday of September and not on International Worker's Day.  The president feared associating the holiday too closely with a communist or socialist ideology.  Today, we still observe the holiday, but national opinion toward organized labor is cool at best, hostile at worst.

The question of Labor Day is similar to the question out of the mouths of children every Mother's or Father's Day.  "When is there going to be a kid's day?"  You know the answer to that question.  So why a Labor Day.  "When do we get an entrepeneur or business owner day?"  The answer isn't quite as strong, but much the same.

Folks who sell the only good they own, their labor, are at quite the disadvantage in a populated society.  We look at them skeptically when they organize to set wages or workplace standards for themselves.  If they stood as individuals, the market would govern and wages and conditions would set themselves in a real, rather than artificial and fixed way.

But what of the chambers of commerce, the industrial lobbies, the trade agreements, etc., of the business class.  They work to change the law of the land toward conditions that fit their goals of production and profit.  They bind themselves together to fix markets and create favorable conditions to do business. 

And Labor, divided, stands as individuals standing at the table of prosperity waiting to work for the crumbs that may drop from the table.  This scene wouldn't be a problem if the very labor waiting for a bone didn't help build the table in the first place.

America was founded through struggle.  Our nation was birthed through a war.  The fundamental document that sets the law of the land was a process of conflict and compromise.  So goes the relationship between labor and capitalists from the origin of industry until today.  Conflict and compromise is hard, and often painful, but when both sides are working for the American ideal, the outcome is strength and unity.

Labor isn't the good guy, it's just often the underdog.  And let's face it, the hands that built America deserve at least a day of recognition.  The faceless millions who gave an honest days work for an honest wage to drive the economy of prosperity-- and yes, despite our troubles of 2012, we are still a prosperous people.

So enjoy your last day of the swimming pool, take that one last mini-vacation, enjoy a movie on your day off, or take care of the last minute business if your school year starts tomorrow.  But, at least for a minute, take pride in the work that you do and say thank you to someone for doing the same. 

The Underground plans on taking our first annual Mountain Bike outing to celebrate.  But Tuesday, it's back to work.  Satisfying, life-giving, nation building labor.

Happy Labor Day.

1 comment:

  1. Some good thoughts. Interesting to consider the parallels of public educators to workers as opposed to decision makers/administrators. etc. Nice job Steven "Keynes" Turner