Letter Best: The irony of our modern Labor Day celebrations

September 1, 2013 

Labor Day is Monday and for many Americans that means nothing more than a convenient three-day weekend marking the end of summer.

It's a shame the original meaning of this admirable holiday has become lost over the years. In fact, instead of honoring the labor force that keeps communities running, many people find that the first Monday in September means even more work for them.

For example, retailers across the country offer Labor Day sales, making it one of the most profitable weekends of the entire year. More shoppers than usual pack the malls and department stores in order to take advantage of some great clearance deals, and some stores even offer extended hours to accommodate more business.

That means those who work in retail often end up working longer, more stressful hours on Labor Day than most other times during the year.

Then there are the people who work in other service-related jobs like restaurants, gas stations, motels and convenience stores.

With the increase in travel over the holiday, their jobs also are busier than normal. Even professionals like state patrol officers and hospital workers don't have it easier on a day that's supposed to give the labor force a break.

And let's not forget all the people who end up working longer hours the week prior to Labor Day just so they can take Monday off and keep up their workload.

The examples could go on and on showing just how ironic the holiday has become. Instead of honoring laborers, Labor Day actually ends up making a lot of people work harder.

Labor Day started off in different communities across the country beginning in 1885 as a way to pay tribute to the country's laborforce. It eventually was declared a national holiday in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland.

There used to be parades and festivals celebrating the common worker, but those kinds of events don't seem to happen much anymore.

Over the years, the original meaning of the day has been pushed aside to make room for profit-making opportunities and leisure.

However, the reality is many businesses can't afford to take a break when there's money to be made, and neither can most people.

The country's workforce is different than it used to be. Union membership isn't as high, many people work a couple of part-time jobs because they can't find full-time employment.

Fewer teens are working for a variety of reasons. Some have decided to focus on academics and extra-curricular activities. Others find the competition with adults for jobs is too fierce.

The regulations put in place to protect youths from child labor atrocities, coupled with a high minimum wage, almost precludes teens from the workplace now.

Times just aren't the same and for whatever reason, the need to recognize the country's labor isn't as strong as it once was.

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