Labor Day celebrates those who are backbone of society
An acquaintance recently told me: “I always said I hated my job and dreaded going to work. But I didn’t know how much I would miss it until it was gone.” He added that he wasn’t just speaking about money, but the good feeling of doing something worthwhile every day.
He was one of the millions of Americans who faced the grim reality of unemployment in the past few years. He added that like many Americans he learned the value of having a job. We still have an unemployment rate, which is far too high, however it is nothing like the Great Depression when nearly 25 percent of workers were unemployed.
Now, I know what you are thinking – I’m retired – I don’t have to go to work. That’s true, but I remember having a job since I was 15 years old and I spent nearly half a century working. Of that time, I spent one year teaching school and one summer working construction. Other than that, I have always been in some facet of the newspaper business. I have worked as a printer, linotype operator, reporter, ad salesman, general manager and seven years as an industrial editor. I will admit that I am one of the lucky persons who always had a job that I really liked. I must say however, that retirement is the best work I ever had.
I always enjoyed going to work, and in the weekly newspaper business there were long, long hours. I always found the media business to be challenging and exciting. There were never two days alike. I always wanted to publish a perfect edition, but sadly that never happened.
I spent a couple of months without work when I lost my job at BPU in 1970. Even though I was working on buying a business, I knew the fear and, yes, despair with every rejection letter. I got lucky and purchased the Mulvane News and a few years later sold it and became general manager of three newspapers in Missouri. I learned something about myself – I cannot work for anyone or corporation – if things are messed up, it’s my fault not due to an order from “headquarters.” It was then I found a home in Bonner Springs.
On Monday, we’ll observe Labor Day and it should be a celebration of how far we’ve come. Just a century ago, the average work week was 60 hours — six 10-hour days. When I first joined the work force it was 48 hours and then 44 hours. Now, unless you are self-employed the work week is 40 hours.
The idea of a day to honor labor was probably started by Peter J. McGuire in 1882. A well-known labor leader, he was the founder of the Carpenters and Joiners of America. The first celebration was on Sept. 5, 1882, with picnics, fireworks, dancing and oratory. Other sources credit Matthew Maguire with the original idea.
According to the information I found, there was no particular reason that the first Monday in September was chosen. As the labor movement advanced, the holiday gained momentum. The first official recognition was in Oregon and President Grover Cleveland signed a bill on June 28, 1894, making it a legal holiday.
The purpose of the holiday was to set aside a day to honor the achievements of labor and its accomplishments to aid all Americans. That reason is still valid today. Whether it’s working in a factory, skilled trade, farming, office or in management, the United States has the best, most efficient and capable workforce in the world. We will remain a great country thanks to the men and women who toil everyday. They are the backbone of our society.