America’s Most Ignored Holiday

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At first they were afraid that the celebration was going to be a failure. Many of the workers in the parade had to lose a day’s pay in order to participate. When the parade began only a handful of workers were in it, while hundreds of people stood on the sidewalk jeering at them. But then slowly they came – 200 workers and a band from the Jewelers’ Union showed up and joined the parade. Then came a group of bricklayers with another band. By the time they reached the park, it was estimated that there were 10,000 marchers in the parade in support of workers.

The park was decorated with flags of many nations. Everyone picnicked, drank beer and listened to speeches from the union leadership. In the evening, even more people came to the park to watch fireworks and dance. The newspapers of the day declared it a huge success and “a day of the people.”

—Linda Stinson, Historian, United States Department of Labor

I’m working for a client right now who’s pushed a deadline back to Tuesday, so that everyone involved can have the coming “long weekend” to work on it.

Can you spot both oxymorons in that concept?

  1. Working on the weekend
  2. Working on Labor Day

If we really want to honor our country’s history, we could take a stand and respect the things that our ancestors worked so hard to create for us. Not merely freedom of speech and the right to vote, but the huge efforts (and significant sacrifice and more than occasional bloodshed) to limit employers’ power over our lives. Labor laws of all kinds—from minimum wage requirements to the 40-hour workweek, from workplace safety rights to the ability to organize and bargain collectively—did not come easily, but have been pretty easily surrendered.

Higher ed has led the raising of the white flag. Stipends for adjuncts allow schools to evade minimum wage laws, while the move toward salaries has allowed schools to ignore overtime (or more accurately, to expect massive amounts of overtime to be uncompensated). TAs, RAs, and student athletes are classified fundamentally as “students” rather than “employees” to limit their ability to push back on labor conditions. Limited term engagements like postdocs and visiting scholars and professors of the practice allow the sloughing off of those deemed to be no longer necessary. For a bunch of supposed lefties, we’ve sure walked back from our commitments toward collective wellbeing.

So here’s a pain-free way to show your support for labor. On this coming Sunday and Monday… don’t work. (Go out on Saturday and buy beer and hot dogs and gas for the car and whatever you need, so that you’re not making anybody else work on Sunday and Monday either.) And then, just chill. Support America from your lawn chair, from your inflatable pool, from the dog park. Support America from the beach, from the forest, from your kayak.

Support labor. Don’t f*^#@ing work on f*^#@ing Labor Day!!!