Ask The Youngsters The Meaning of Labor Day!

labor dayLabor Day is celebrated the first Monday in September to honor American workers. It is a tribute to the contribution workers make to the strength and well-being of our country.  The first Labor Day was celebrated Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, planned by the Central Labor Union. In 1884 the first Monday of September was selected as the holiday. It is referred to as the “the workingmen’s holiday.”

There is dispute as to who the father of Labor Day is: Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Carpenters Union of the Brother of Carpenters and Joiners and also co-founder of the American Federation of Labor, or Matthew McGuire, a machinist and secretary of Local 344 of the International Associations of Machinists.

As with so many traditions that we celebrate, the reason these holidays are celebrated is lost in translation. I wondered how many young people understood the reason for the Labor Day holiday. Many do not. To the younger generation Labor Day is the last hurrah before school starts, fall sets in and people get back into schedules after the summer. Many do not know why the holiday is called Labor Day.

Over the years there has been a big shift in our nation. Unions are not so prominent anymore. Factories and factory worker jobs have disappeared and moved overseas. Factories used to be part of the backbone of labor and provided good incomes for families. Factory workers were proud of their work.

My uncle worked for Douglas Aircraft Company starting somewhere in the 1940s. The company merged and became McDonnell Douglas in 1967. They were an aerospace company. My uncle and his co-workers were proud of their work and liked where they worked. He liked the working environment and felt the employees were treated fairly by the company. His pay was very good. He worked there from the time he was a young man until his retirement at the age of 55. The company had very good retirement benefits letting him retire early, a benefit for the hard work he had put in with the company.

We need to remember the reason for the Labor Day holiday. We need to teach our children the history of the holiday. We need to embrace the workers of America and that includes jobs that are not glamorous and sometimes are downright dirty.  We need to honor those who pick up our trash, clean our bathrooms, work in factories for low pay, take care of our children and our elderly, work at home-based businesses and work as CEOs of companies. We need to honor the police, the medical doctors, the teachers and whoever works to put food on their table, whether it is those who are wealthy or those workers who scrape to put food on their table. They all make up our great country of America.

Laborers today, whether they are a clerk in a store, a waitress or a company person, need to feel appreciated. I had a problem with book piracy on Amazon. I was impressed by the fast help I got from one of their employees by the name of Selene. I have never had a better experience anywhere, and it was because of Selene. I asked her if she liked her job. I knew the answer before she told me — it was yes. I already knew the answer because of her helpful and cheerful attitude. I could feel her smiling through the telephone. She is happy working for this company. It followed through to the service she gave me. She felt appreciated.

In talking to other workers at other companies, many were just happy to have a job. Some had a problem coping with the stress of their job because of bad management, a difficult boss and rude customers. Yes, folks, we as consumers can be a rude bunch, and we as bosses can be more concerned about the bottom line than our employees. We need to keep that in mind when we celebrate Labor Day. Being in the labor force is not always easy but people stick with it to put food on their table. Without the labor force our country would be at a standstill.

My uncle worked for McDonnell Douglas his entire working career. That doesn’t happen too often now. Companies aren’t always loyal to their workers, and workers aren’t always loyal to their company so the workforce is constantly changing.

On this Labor Day talk to your children about the value of the American worker and what they contribute to the strength of America. If you don’t know the history of the holiday, use your handy-dandy search engine on the computer for a quick history lesson. We can’t go forward with success unless we visit the past and know our foundation and what kept it strong. Thank you to everyone in the workforce today. You are a valuable asset to our country.

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