Labor Day

Here it is Labor Day!  This is the day we honor and celebrate the hard working factory people of yesteryear, who fought and struggled for fair wages and hours.  The growth of factory work during the Industrial Revolution paved the way for many of the rights and privileges workers of all stripes receive today.  Competitive salaries, regular schedules, lunch breaks, and eventually benefits, all had their roots in the factories of the 19th Century.
Today, many workers are pushing for an even shorter workweek and fewer hours (and hope to get the same compensation!).  Yet, ironically because of the current economic climate too many people are being forced into fewer hours, having to take mandatory furloughs and lower pay and benefits.  Making matters worse are increases to taxes and health care costs that further reduce the earnings that hard working people get to actually take home.  And, there are still far too many people out of work.
Over this past weekend I spent time talking to a number of people, many of whom are actually working on Labor Day.  And we talked about the diversity of people who would report for work on the day designated to honor the worker.  Yes, there were the retail folks who had to be part of their companies sales force for the holiday that for many marks the end of summer, but unlike days gone by, many will not receive overtime or escalated holiday pay scales for working this day.  There were a few laborers who would be pounding hammers today, several hundred who are working on trying to get the Oakland Bay Bridge open in time for Tuesday’s commute.  And there are others – not necessarily all blue collar laborers – who would be working today, including broadcast personnel, writers, police, firefighters, medical professionals, etc, all of whom will be putting in their full day’s work, instead of barbequing, hanging out in the park with the family or just sleeping in.
But for the many who are not employed, Labor Day is just another day.  Hopefully today is a day where some effort is being put into finding work or other creative endeavor that generates hope and promise of a fulfilling income.  But for many it will be a day of frustration, going through job listings, sending out resumes, feeling unrecognized, afraid of not being able to put food on the table or being unable to provide for themselves or their loved ones.
I hope that this year, Labor Day will be one of thought and creativity, where leaders from all kinds of industries and businesses will spend a few minutes thinking about how to create jobs.  Maybe it’s too late for there to be any kind of formal Labor Day “think tank” endeavor where thought leaders collectively meet and exchange ideas.  But it isn’t too late for anyone in a position to hire to think about not only how to retain workers, but ways to employ more people.
Hopefully, with a lot of effort, at this time next year, Labor Day will begin to reflect new growth and opportunities for employees to celebrate new jobs and new industries that help workers build lives for themselves and their families.  Wouldn’t it be nice if Labor Day also reflected a renewed hope in the growth of the economy and our nation, where new opportunities existed for blue and white collar workers alike, and the promise of a better future was feasible and within our grasp?  Let’s hope those in a position to make this happen take the idea seriously.
Enjoy your holiday!
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