Saw some social-media ignorance on display this Labor Day weekend—which surprised me more than it reasonably should have. In this case it was a picture of flag-draped military coffins, with the guilt-inducer: “Just In Case You Thought It Was About A 3-Day Weekend.”
No. That’s Memorial Day you’re thinking of, and as near-sacrosanct as that holiday is and should be, it’s not Labor Day. Those are separate and distinct celebrations.
On Labor Day we honor the U.S. labor movement, and in a very real way it is about the three-day weekend. It’s about weekends in general, about personal time, time away from the job—things we wouldn’t have were it not for organized labor.
Labor Day honors the ability of the working class to strive toward the middle class—and it celebrates the fact that in doing so labor builds our infrastructure, sustains our industry, and powers our economy.
And traditionally, labor does all this with very little credit, and even less respect.
As a result, labor as a cultural and political force is in decline. Has been for some time. In a digital economy, where derivative finance is considered to be the most viable engine for growth, industry is seen as anachronistic, and organized labor as a throwback and a threat.
What that viewpoint fails to take into consideration is labor’s ongoing and irreplaceable contribution to our society. Like many things that are taken for granted, its worth is only appreciated when it’s interrupted. So, as always, the laborer will only get the respect he deserves when he lays down his tools.
That, possibly, is a fight for another day. The struggle goes on (history seems to suggest it’ll never end). This weekend, labor—and the rest of us—are invited to cease our toils peaceably, in fellowship and cooperation. The Labor Movement sacrificed mightily to earn us this respite, so it’s only fitting that we take just a moment of it to reflect on all its contributions, and on all its many sacrifices.