What’s the real meaning of Labor Day?

What’s the real meaning of Labor Day? I read an article from Rev. Dr. DeForest B. Soaries that beautifully answers this question. The article is as follows:

Although the social festivities and family gatherings obscure the original meaning of Labor Day, the fact the first Monday in September in the United States punctuates the end of summer with day off with pay is a greatly appreciated benefit for all American workers who have it.

There may be a slight disconnect between valuing the work of so many workers by granting this national day off. Without the fringe benefit of paid holidays, many Americans actually lose money if they don’t work on Labor Day.

We used to use descriptive words to differentiate between types of jobs. Those that include a package of valuable benefits like sick time, vacation leave, personal days, and paid holidays were considered good jobs. Today the slow-to-recover economy and the threat posed by globalization to domestic employment has slightly changed our language.

With most new jobs being part-time with no benefits and so many college graduates strapped with thousand of dollars of student loan debt, living with their parents rent free, and having great difficulties finding employment, many are referring to any job at all as a good job.

Labor day is an opportunity to recognize the productivity, creativity, and importance of America’s past and present labor force. Women and men have contributed to making this country the most successful economic model in the history of the world.

While it takes great ideas in areas such as health care, technology, manufacturing, transportation, and hospitality to spur economic expansion and growth, without loyal, hardworking people, there would be no engine to drive those industries into the giants they are today.

Not only do workers represent the foundation of industries that produce marketable products and services, but also the public and not-for-profit agencies that preserve our quality of life.

Corporate leaders and innovators seem to get their share of recognition and praise. They are certainly well compensated. But we may need a renewed sense of gratefulness for the people who do the normal, less glamorous work.

So in addition to the backyard barbeques, neighborhood picnics, and other rites of transition from summer to fall, perhaps each of us should pick one person whose work has gone unrecognized and offer a person an expression of gratitude on Labor Day. Perhaps it is the school bus driver, the custodian in your building, or the receptionist who we pass every day on the way to our office.

What could Labor Day become if it really inspired an outbreak of gratitude for police officers, fire officials, and others whose work we need but often take for granted?

What’s the real meaning of Labor Day for you? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

Happy Labor Day wherever you may be!

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