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Daily Journal
     September 8, 2022      #91-251 KDJ

What are we celebrating this weekend?

By Ron Jackson

Why do we continue to celebrate Labor Day? The original intent of the holiday is long gone. Labor Day doesn’t exist anymore to honor the accomplishments of workers and organized labor that established so many of our “good” work standards, production standards, benefits and laws. Today, Labor Day marks the end of summer vacationing period. It is the last three-day travel weekend until Thanksgiving.

We no longer acknowledge the contributions that Labor Day was established to appreciate. The social and economic achievements of workers that Labor Day was designed to remind us of no longer exist on a national scale. Achievement, productivity and growth are undeniably greater but it is being accomplished by fewer workers.

The titans of our labor renaissance had memorable names like Rockefeller, Vanderbilt, Carnegie, Dupont, Morgan, Ford. While not necessarily saints in their pursuit of progress and wealth, their forethought did provide opportunity for a greater number of people to work but also the necessity for organized labor. While often adversarial, profit-driven ownership and worker unions were able to coexist to propel our economy and the living conditions of many citizens.

Today’s industry creators have names like Bezos, Zuckerberg, Gates, Musk, Walton. All driven by technology, innovation, more efficient less human labor productivity, and minimal wages as possible. We are more cognizant of the products and services of today’s workforce. We don’t acknowledge or honor the work of the declining number of millions of workers who provide us the convenience we have become accustomed to.

The standard of living and productivity standards that were set by American labor of yesteryear are in decline due to technological advancement which relies less on human labor, international competition, a change in work ethic and profit over people mentality.

So, what are we celebrating this weekend? Who are we celebrating? Why are we celebrating? Like the government and taxes, it would be absurd to suggest giving up a value we have enjoyed. I am not. But, could we exchange it for a date that more Americans could take part? Or a date that might encourage more citizens to participate.

It has been asked and suggested before. Why isn’t Election Day a national holiday? Understandably with the plethora of voting options we have today, one specific date to vote may no longer be a preferred priority. Not suggesting it would improve our voting participation rate, but it could possibly serve as a reminder to some of something civically important, and the possibility of having a day off with pay just may encourage some to take part.

Labor Day is traditionally about remembering and appreciating the advancement of production and workers’ standards due to the organization of labor. Today, some workers even have the “right-to-work” right not to be required to join a labor union. And with the trend toward more customer self-service and online procurement of goods, we are becoming a consumer-driven labor economy. Has Labor Day become a holiday to honor ourselves for all the work we do for ourselves?

With a beautiful weather forecast for this weekend, any notion of changing a tradition is futile and actually stupid to even think of giving up a day off with pay, miss a chance to grill one more time this summer, a day on or near the water or three days to accept that there will be no professional baseball in Illinois this fall.

However, there is one change to the Labor Day tradition that is more acceptable now. You can wear white after Monday. Even with BBQ sauce on it.

A happy and safe whatever you do this weekend to all.

Ron Jackson can be contacted through the Daily Journal at editors@daily-journal.com

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