Labor Day has evolved, like many American holidays, from its original intent and practice. Once a product of, and salute to, organized labor, the holiday has become the unofficial end of summer in the North and, in states such as Florida, the outset of another month in hurricane season.
For many workers, the holiday makes for a third day of a nice, long weekend away from the office — but not from email for many — or the job site.
But, as we have noted in previous years, in our around-the-clock, every-day-is-a-shopping-day society, millions of Americans report to work even on official holidays — staffing stores, taking online orders, serving food and drinks, towing cars, safeguarding swimmers, publishing and delivering newspapers, and more.
And so it was Monday. As many of us enjoyed a day out of the office - still fielding emails and handling work-related matters but doing so from the comfort of a spot on the beach or by the pool - just as many, it seemed were working to help us enjoy our day off. From the beach chair rentals to the waitresses and cooks we saw, there was no freedom from a day of labor.
And, as always, there are those who work the holiday weekend to provide essential services — caring for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, maintaining and repairing public utilities, enforcing the law and fighting fires.
Those of us who have jobs that provided time off this weekend should be grateful not only for the employment and the respite, but for those who were working to keep us safe and support the economy.
We should remember as well that it wasn’t so long ago that millions of individual Americans and families were devastated financially by unemployment. Families lost their homes, businesses closed or conducted deep layoffs, and people who were once donors to charities and social-service organizations became recipients.
Although underemployment and stagnant wages for middle- and low-income workers remains a serious problem, at least the unemployment rate is now under 5 percent. The slow but steady reduction of joblessness is reason to be grateful — and it is a sign of the resiliency of the U.S. economy, despite political dysfunction in Washington.
It’s also important to recognize that, during this Labor Day weekend, hundreds of thousands of Americans worked in connection with their jobs or as volunteers — to help the people of Texas recover from Hurricane Harvey.
Police officers, firefighters, National Guardsmen, rescue experts, nurses, doctors, road crews, plumbers, roofers, carpenters, retailers, waste haulers, meteorologists, reporters, photographers and countless others have worked exceedingly long hours under frequently hazardous conditions to save lives, protect property (when possible), provide information and commence the difficult recovery.
This Labor Day weekend is more than a holiday. It recognition of the contributions of Americans who work to keep our country going.