What’s the real meaning of Labor Day? by Dr. DeForest Soaries

What’s the real meaning of Labor Day? by Dr. DeForest Soaries

Although social festivities and family gatherings obscure the original meaning of Labor Day, having the first Monday in September off as a paid holiday is a greatly appreciated benefit for all American workers who have it. However, without the fringe benefit of paid holidays, many Americans either have to work or lose money if they take Labor Day off.

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

With many new jobs being part-time without benefits, and with so many college graduates strapped with excessive student loans or living with their parents rent free or having difficulties finding employment to match their skills, 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.

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. Without loyal, hardworking people, there would be no engine to drive those industries into the giants they are today. We also need to recognize the public and not-for-profit agencies that preserve our quality of life.

So in addition to the backyard barbecues, 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 an expression of gratitude. Perhaps it is the school bus driver, the custodian in your building, or the receptionist who you 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?


Personally, I like the idea of showing an extra bit of gratitude to those whose work often goes unrecognized. A little appreciation can go a long way! Do you take the time to think about the meaning of Labor Day, or do you just see it as a day off? Do you express gratitude to those who serve you well? I’m interested in any thoughts or comments that you have.

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