President Obama is adamantly clear that Labor Day is important to “the working men and women of America”, and that he wants more for the middle class, countering “the forces that conspire against working Americans”. Yet what I see is a country in which Labor Day is all about the “end of Summer” and making money … which means many Americans are working today. The Labor Day sales of retailers ensure that many “working Americans” are at work today. For others, the once-clear boundaries of the office are gone with the advent of mobile technologies, the Internet, and the expectation that one can work anywhere, any time. The U.S. Department of Labor tells us that Labor Day is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.” By 1894, Labor Day was a national holiday, to be marked with parades and speeches celebrating the workforce that made this country great. Today, the fast-food workers reported to work as usual. The retail store workers also reported as usual. Construction workers were on sites building. Yes, the Federal Government and many businesses are closed. Yet many of the bottom-of-the-rung workers are working, because they can’t afford to take the day off without pay. Or because they simply don’t even realize what Labor Day is supposed to mean. The very people for which this day is supposed to honor are being treated as if it’s just another day. And these same people have lost their Thanksgivings, Christmases, and New Year Days as everything must remain open every day now. While there is much not to like about the unions responsible for Labor Day, they did once improve the position of this core of America – the worker – and they deserve some thanks. In 2013 workers are the center of some huge arguments in America. From a faltering economy to a pending healthcare plan to immigration debates, the lower and middle class workers are not only the focus of discussion, they are key to the success of this country. People with hopes and dreams are working to survive, and many expect to make their lives better. Yet we can’t even take one day off from the massive mindless consumerism that defines our culture. So as some of us bask in the sun waterside of those soon-to-be-closed swimming facilities and beaches, let us at least stop a moment and thank our workers, all of them working today, from the janitors to the farm workers, from the bus drivers to the nurses, from the teachers to the information-age workers. Tell them today, Labor Day 2013, or tomorrow or any day that they are appreciated. If you own a business or have influence in one, show the employees some respect.
If any man tells you he loves America, yet hates labor, he is a liar. If any man tells you he trusts America, yet fears labor, he is a fool. Abraham Lincoln