I don’t think any of us would deny that Americans are a hard working people and that most of us have work ethics worthy of being admired, acknowledged and celebrated. Those were certainly the sentiments in 1894 when Congress finally passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday throughout the nation.
As stated by the U.S. Department of Labor:
"The form that the observance and celebration of Labor Day should take was outlined in the first proposal of the holiday: a street parade to exhibit to the public ‘the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations’ of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. This became the pattern for the celebrations of Labor Day. Speeches by prominent men and women were introduced later, as more emphasis was placed upon the economic and civic significance of the holiday. Still later, by a resolution of the American Federation of Labor convention of 1909, the Sunday preceding Labor Day was adopted as Labor Sunday and dedicated to the spiritual and educational aspects of the labor movement.”
Much has happened since those early days at the start of the 20th century, and in today's complex world where all of us would like to see a return to prosperity, it is perhaps more important than ever that we honor and respect American workers – no matter what their occupation – and hope that the government that we have always worked so hard to support will once again support us in essential and significant ways.
However, the celebration of Labor Day this year is less a celebration than a half-hearted acknowledgment and a time to reflect, unfortunately, on the country’s sagging economy and how so many of our people are struggling to survive. In recent years, Labor Day and, more specifically – Labor Day weekend – has turned into a time for barbeques at home and/or modest vacations, as well as sale days to help ready our children to return to school.
This month alone, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released unemployment figures that reflect a rate increase of 9.6% with the total number of jobs lost being 54,000, not enough, we are told, to keep up with the population growth. And while I have no answers as to how to solve this monumental problem, I do know how very important it is to resolve it, if we are to avoid the ripple effect of unemployment on individuals, families and the nation as a whole.
Lest anyone think that an un-employed person is pleased with his free time and not overwhelmed – and/or actually clinically depressed – by mounting bills and the frustration of not being able to meet his responsibilities, think again. Whether or not you believe in a past life or a future life, one thing is certain: this life we live now is the one that we have the greatest ability to influence.
Whatever the government does or does not do to help us, we each owe it to ourselves and to the generations that follow to be our best advocates. We must keep our focus on maintaining medical and social benefits; the quality of our children’s education, and the quality of our daily lives.
It is all too easy for some people – whatever their socio-economic position may be – to feel depressed and hopeless not only about work and financial woes, but about the general political climate world-wide. However, such thinking will prove to defeat us as a nation and deplete whatever energy we need to make certain that we do our very best to fight for our individual and collective rights as Americans, as a people who believe in democracy and the democratic process.
So, despite whatever fears we may be harboring about the rate of unemployment and the plight of laborers across the country, it is of the utmost importance that we continue to honor the American work force. To do anything less is to give up, and that is certainly not in anyone’s best interest ... and has never been what has singled us out as a moral and courageous people!
On that note, I wish everyone a peaceful Labor Day weekend and hope that - for at least these few days - those who have real worries and concerns are able to put them aside, enjoy friends and family and the very notion that we do, in fact, honor all working Americans who strive to live decent and dignified lives.