Labor Day was originally started as a dedication to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.
It is traditionally observed on the first Monday in September and also symbolizes the end of summer for many Americans.
In the 1830s, manufacturing workers were putting in 70-hour weeks on average. Sixty years later, in 1890, hours of work had dropped, although the average manufacturing worker still toiled in a factory 60 hours a week.
These long working hours caused many union organizers to focus on winning a shorter eight-hour work day. They also focused on getting workers more days off, such as the Labor Day holiday, and reducing the workweek to just six days.
These early organizers clearly won since the most recent data show that the average person working in manufacturing is employed for a bit over 40 hours a week and most people work only five days a week.
Surprisingly, many politicians and business owners were actually in favor of giving workers more time off. That’s because workers who had no free time were not able to spend their wages on traveling, entertainment or dining out.
But is it still meaningful in today’s world with Millions out of work?
Hard work has been the cornerstone of how America became great in the first place.
But today’s Millennials view the world much differently than the union workers who struggled for their rights in the past. Tied to their laptops and the gig economy, their struggle is more to claim their independence from rigid authoritarian systems of the past and to try and make a difference in the world.
And while they may not be fighting for the terrible working conditions of the past, they still have their own labor battles to contend with, not to mention the large numbers of unemployed in today’s climate nor the poor working conditions that still exist in many areas of our world.
Labor Day is still a meaningful tradition and fight, as well as a great way to celebrate the closing of summer.
So safely celebrate today and keep up the good fight that made this country great!