Most of you know today as Labor Day. What exactly is Labor Day? Sounds like a day to celebrate work, but it isn’t. Maybe it’s a day where we celebrate the ability for women to give birth? Nope, not that either.
Labor Day isn’t just a day off with pay. And it’s not BBQ at the beach or a celebration of the end of summer.
Actually, it’s a day for us to celebrate workers. But who really loves to work? Wouldn’t most people love to have enough money not to have to work? So, why do we celebrate the American worker?
Originally, Labor Day was an olive branch extended by President Grover Cleveland after he sent American troops in to stop the railroad workers strike and 12 workers were killed in the process. He gave them a day off (with pay?) to let things settle down. Cleveland’s olive branch withered and the celebration died away.
I appreciate the sacrifices that the American worker has made over the years to feed their families, buy homes and cars, provide their children’s education, and make a good life. But isn’t that what the American Dream is all about?
In the early days of America we had many shameful moments. Workers were taken advantage of. Working 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, being replaced permanently if they were out sick a day or two, and even plant workers being beaten for not working hard enough. Barbaric!
But that was then. America has come a long way. I’ll even give the unions credit for helping to make working conditions fair and give workers some protections. But somewhere along the way, like with any big corporation that disconnects from its people, they went bad. Yes, bad.
Workers’ salaries shouldn’t be based on what the company makes, it should be based on a fair days wage for a good days work. In most cases, the worker doesn’t lose his investments, 20 years of sweat, his home and cars if the company goes out of business. Business entrepreneurs very often do! Workers can usually get a job in the same industry. There is no real risk being an employee.
The owner of the company usually puts up his house, his name, his reputation, and all his assets to borrow money to start the company up and running. It’s the entrepreneur that comes up with the idea, figures out how to produce it, figures out how to bring it to market, and figures out how to make a profit on it so he can hire the laborer. Then the laborer can show up, do his job, feed his family, afford a house, and so on. Once in a while, one of those workers rises up, figures out how to do it better, starts their own company, and becomes an entrepreneur. That’s the real American dream… freedom to make money to live comfortably after hard work and ingenuity! Sadly, that’s also what the unions seem to hate the most, entrepreneurs.
It’s unclear who the brainchild behind Labor Day was. Many credit Labor Day to Peter J. McGuire, cofounder of the American Federation of Labor. Others have suggested that Matthew Maguire, a secretary of the Central Labor Union, first proposed the holiday. Either way, it was union officials making a big deal out of union workers.
What about all the other American workers? Maybe we could rename it to “American Dream Day” and celebrate the fact that we have the freedom choose our profession and where we work. We can choose to start our own business, to own a house and a car, to get a good education, and to move freely about the country. Yes, we can simply work for someone and enjoy the American Dream.
Let’s celebrate the American worker and the American entrepreneur, not just union workers.
Anyone can make it in this country… anyone! No excuses. You make it or you fail because of your ability, your tenacity, and how bad you want it and are willing to work for it.
I don’t celebrate the union worker, I celebrate all Americans who work hard to obtain the American Dream and “make it big” and those who work hard to enjoy the freedoms they have here. Happy American Dream Day!
Photo credit Kheel Center