So what's Labor Day all about, anyway?
For most of us, it marks the end of the summer: the closing of local swimming pools; one last neighborhood barbeque; a quick trip to the lake for the extended weekend before autumn starts opening the door for winter to slip in. But when do we celebrate "labor?" Or at least the Labor Movement?
According to the old inter-web, Labor Day was originally planned by the Central Labor Union of New York back in 1882 to serve as a tribute to the working class. That means it was meant to honor the men - and women -- who provided the "labor" that built our country. Speeches, parades, and demonstrations were all part of the celebration, with a picnic thrown in along the way for good measure. After the practice was adopted by cities and states across the nation, the feds got on board and declared the first Monday of September to be a holiday. You might ask why they would place it at the end of the summer. I believe it was placed there so no parallels could be drawn between Labor Day and the then Soviet Union's May Day celebration.
But let's face it -- as a nation we have made Labor Day into a "labor-less" day that hardly takes notice of the working class at all. But why?
One reason might be that the traditional, blue collar, unionized "working class" is shrinking. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2013 only 11.3% of workers in the private sector were union members, down from 20% in 1983. In other words, many of the workers that Labor Day originally honored just aren't here anymore. Their jobs have either gone off-shore or simply don't exist.
So, why continue to celebrate when the "labor" part of the equation has practically vanished? Because it's not about the unions anymore.
All of us work -- and most work very hard. We don't seem to think of white-collar workers as folks who labor; or people who work in the technology and software sector; or teachers; or nurses and hospital techs or those who keep the hospital rooms spotless and germ free; or the farmers - big or small, local or otherwise - who keep food on the tables of their neighbors as well as tables of people they've never met half-way around the world.
But they are today's "labor force."
So we celebrate those who put forth the effort to get the job done -- no matter what that job might be. We celebrate the fact that during these times, with so many people unemployed, we have the opportunity to "labor." We take time to go boating or camping or on a short trip to the beach while summer is still here. We take time to take a deep breath and gather our thoughts before autumn arrives with winter in tow.
Then we pack up the boats and the kids and the pop-up campers and head for the house.
Sooooo ... I'll take that burger grilled to medium-rare with a big kosher dill and a big slice of home grown tomato, because the days of homemade soups, stews and chili are not far off.