Of all the non-religious holidays Americans observe, Labor Day may have changed the most through the years. Itís a holiday that was once dominated by labor union parades and speeches across the country, but today such sponsored events are limited to a few major cities. For most Americans, the holiday the nation will mark Monday will be nothing more than a welcome three-day weekend to make the trips, grill the burgers and do the shopping before summer fades into history.
Historians describe Labor Day as an annual holiday that resulted from efforts of the labor union movement, a day set aside to celebrate the economic and social achievements of workers. Contemporary observances for most Americans may no longer be largely centered around unions, or even around Americaís diverse, creative and productive workforce. Nevertheless, it is the ongoing efforts of the American worker that make the celebration of the holiday in this way possible. It is appropriate that the nation and most employers are able to provide a holiday in recognition of that.
Since the end of World War II, the amount of time Americans spend at their jobs has generally risen steadily. This reversed a decades-long trend of shorter hours at the workplace, and came despite productivity increases that might have made shorter workweeks possible. Even today, Americans demand fewer weeks of vacation than their European counterparts, and even then a growing number of workers donít use all their time off. The rising unemployment rates of the past year might create a blip in the line chart, however.
Sacrificing time for leisure and family has negative side-effects, but the willingness of Americans to work long and hard at least speaks to the importance workers place on what they do, and the life their work can create for themselves and loved ones. Many, of course, work because they must, but they still are able to find satisfaction in it. Labor Day is a tribute to that work ethic, whether a union is involved or not, and it comes as welcome day off.
Take it and enjoy ó if you can, and if you will.