There’s been a long-standing joke in my repertoire – that every holiday is Labor Day when you work in news. Ditto for law enforcement, public health and myriad other professions. The fact that you’re reading this newspaper today is the result of a number of us who worked this past Monday, Sept. 5, so you could. You’re welcome.
Working on Labor Day wasn’t the intention of those in the trade union and labor movements in the late 19th century, who wanted to set aside one day each year as a tribute to those who work. Labor Day didn’t become an official public holiday until 1887, and then, only in Oregon. But the nation caught on in a hurry. By 1894, it was an official federal holiday and is now celebrated in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
It’s also become a marker of sorts for our lives. Labor Day has been called the unofficial end of summer. Public swimming pools close after Labor Day Monday, most schools are back in session, and the three-day weekend seems like the bookend on the other side of Memorial Day in May, which ushers in summer and school vacation.
We’ve also come to know it as the beginning of many fall sports. Colleges often schedule their season-opening football games on that weekend, and on the Thursday following the holiday, the NFL season traditionally begins. NASCAR holds its Southern 500 in South Carolina on Labor Day, a tradition dating back to 1950. The holiday usually marks the midway point of the U.S. Open Tennis Championships as well. Department stores have Labor Day sales. And if you are to believe the fashion police, whoever they are, Labor Day is considered the last day when it’s acceptable to wear white. Not sure what those planning fall weddings are suppose to do with that rule.
But I’ve digressed from the point of this column – which is this. Labor Day SHOULD be the day when employers pay homage to their employees. Sure, not all of us can take it as a holiday, but that shouldn’t mean not being recognized by those who depend on us to keep their doors open, businesses running and (hopefully) some income flowing.
In my 40+ years of working, I’ve heard some of the same complaints over and over again from friends when they think about Labor Day and their jobs. “My boss doesn’t appreciate me,” they say. I’m sure that’s not always the case, though it might sometimes feel like it. But gratitude in the workplace has to go both ways. Employees should be grateful for having a job, and employers should be grateful that they have people to fill those jobs.
Having been in both positions – as employee and employer – I can appreciate feelings from all sides. I just remember one simple phrase I once told one of my bosses when he was particularly frustrated that his employees didn’t have the same passion for his business as he did.
“They don’t live to work for you…they work for you to live.”
When you know you’re valued, and when you know that other people are depending on you to do your job well, working on a holiday, even Labor Day, isn’t really so bad after all.