This weekend, everyone is ready to get their grill on and enjoy the extended weekend to commemorate Labor Day.
This day is usually celebrated in the company of a body of water, a gaggle of friends, and a trough of adult beverages (none of whom are certain as to why they have the day off). The most prescient reminder that we don’t have to go into the office is the “closed” sign in the window of our local bank.
The problem is that the day was not created for a telethon or an excursion to the beach, but rather to celebrate the true laborers in this country way back in 1882.
The day was created to recognize the little man — the person who worked 10 to 12 hours each day, received very little pay, lived with an extremely compromised quality of life and never received anything in the way of thanks for a day of hard labor.
The “little man” was Peter McGuire, a New York City carpenter.
It took him 10 years to get something done, but he finally got 100,000 workers to go on strike and march through the streets of NYC for a better work environment. And in 1894, Congress passed a law making Labor Day a national holiday before President Grover Cleveland signed it into law.
The date was set aside for honor and celebration, confetti and party favors. Today, unemployment is high, morale is low in many places, hours are long and sick days are frowned upon in many establishments.
The gap between rich and poor continues to grow. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, wage inequality is at its highest level since the Great Depression. Since 1980, the much-maligned one-percenters took home 80 percent of the overall increase in American income.
In short: America, we have a perception problem.
To say that Labor Day has lost its new car smell is an understatement. How can our society best remember and reinvigorate the sentiments behind June 28, 1894?
Holidays require constant promotion these days; commemorations demand slick advertising to strike a familiar chord. Yet we get nothing on Labor Day beyond pictures of “Rosie the Riveter.” And the only way to fix that is via PR, because the perception must change before the reality can change.
With the chasm between the haves and have-nots widening, we’re not sure there is a telethon long enough to repair the image of Labor Day. Another parade? Another picket?
Maybe we just need a prominent reminder that, if it weren’t for all those whom this holiday was created to honor, none of those grilling on the lake would have the day off in the first place.