yellow and green hard hat on rack
Photo by rawpixel.com on Pexels.com

Professional occupations such as lawyer, physician, and business executive form an integral part of a developed community, but only a small part. The vast majority of Americans do not work in these positions. In 2016, the food preparation, sales, and office/administrative support sectors employed the most Americans at 8.5%, 10.1%, and 14.8% of the labor force according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.^{[1]} These are the waiters, waitresses, clerks, and receptionists of America.

Sometimes I think we place jobs on a hierarchy. X job is better than Y job; Y job isn’t as good as Z job. If you’re unable to work in A job you mustn’t have worked enough in B area of life. Certainly, some occupations require more study than another. To work on a construction site you need a high school diploma for G.E.D., but to serve patients as a doctor you must have attained a doctoral or professional degree.

A doctor can save your life; a construction worker can build your home. At the end of the day, don’t we need/want both services? Don’t both jobs have value?

build builder construction equipment
Photo by Yury Kim on Pexels.com

This recognition is the basis for Labor Day, ^{[2]} which falls on the first Monday each September in the United States. Labor Day began as municipal and then state observances in the late 19th century, when the labor movement was gaining momentum. By 1894, state legislation for Labor Day existed in twenty-three states.

Who first proposed the idea for Labor Day, history will not tell. A common story places creation with co-founder of the American Federation of Labor Peter J. McGuire, who supposedly recommended a day to celebrate those “who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold.” Another story credits machinist Matthew Macguire.

In June 1894, President Grover Cleveland signed S. 730, a law that made Labor Day a national holiday. ^{[3]} Labor unions responded with parades and picnics. Street parades and festivals characterized early Labor Days.

Unfortunately, like Mother’s Day, Labor Day has lost some of its original meaning.{[4]} It began as a political movement to promote the labor movement and celebrate the corporate accomplishments of the American workforce. Now it boils down to weekend sales, the end of summer, and maybe a Fourth of July-like meal. This, though, is a holiday whose history and meaning should not be forgotten.

horizontal-vector-labor-day-celebration-260nw-688093231.jpg
Image from Shutterstock

Today, I encourage you to focus on the reason that Labor Day exists.

Thank you to the workers out there.

[1] “Employment by detailed occupation.” Bureau of Labor Statistics, United States Department of Labor, 30 January 2018, https://www.bls.gov/emp/tables/emp-by-detailed-occupation.htm.
[2] “History of Labor Day.” U.S. Department of Labor, United States Department of Labor, n.d., https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history.
[3] “The First Labor Day.” History, Art & Archives, Office of the Historian, n.d., http://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/1851-1900/The-first-Labor-Day/.
[4] Broughton, Chad. “When Labor Day Meant Something.” The Atlantic, 1 September 2014, https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/09/when-labor-day-meant-something/379307/.