Monday, September 2, 2013

Happy Labor Day, But What Is This Thing Anyway?

Ok so here I sit.  It's September 2nd.  Today is a "day off" for most here in the US.

I have some beef in the refrigerator for the Traditional Cook Out.   We'll be making burgers and baked beans.  Probably some canned corn will get nuked, not so sure about that, and there will be time for me to make some sort of dessert.  Some neighbor somewhere will be shooting off fireworks so the dog will hide in his crate later on.

But why did this come about.

When I was growing up, they made sure that we got some sort of feel for why the day exists, but I can't say that the history is too well passed on.  The wind up to the day we'd hear blurbs about what the history was, and to be thankful for the struggle and so forth.

Maybe it's me, but I just haven't heard all that much about it.  I avoid most "live" broadcast media these days anyway.  If I watch the One Eyed Babysitter, it is with the remote control in hand and the 30 second skip button at the ready.  5 presses and I'm through most of the commercial garbage and back to the 21 minutes and 45 seconds of content per half hour.

So it could be me.

I just didn't hear much programming on the International Labor Struggles of the late 1800s.  No mention of how the day started in New York City by Labor "activists" that spread through the US.  There was scant mention of how people actually died in strikes protesting 60 hour work weeks, to earn a full day off Sunday, let alone a weekend. 

It must be a result of having only six companies owning something like 90 percent of the media outlets in the US.   No wonder why I get my news from the BBC, and they have their own bias these days in comparison to the way they were when I was growing up.

I decided to look into things a little bit.  The US government has an amazingly dry and uninformative site up at the Department Of Labor that gives the barest of information.  I guess they are trying to be Politically Correct since they don't want their budget cut by some right wing tea party propagandist.

The Wikipedia site goes into more detail about the history.  The thing with them is that they actually expect you to read more of the links and dig deeper on your own.  To really wrap your head around it, you might need to read about the history of Labor and Labor unions in the US.

There are professors who's specialties are the entire subject of Labor "relations" in the US and in other nations.  You can read about it for hours.

It seemed that the history being history, you have to actually want to pursue this on your own until the dog knocks over a plant or you simply get your fill of the information. 

Most won't, history is not going to go away - or will it?

The bottom line is that you have the Day Off today because there were people who died for that right.   They died for the right to a living wage, a safe workplace, and so many things that are taken for granted these days.  Unions are not perfect, I was "compelled" to join one when I worked at the School District, and since I am not a teacher, it was a complete waste of time for me.  They weren't concerned with people in other job categories.

But Unions perform a function that is larger than their 11 or so percent of membership in this country.  Unions are a safeguard for the workplace.  They are there to make sure that the laws don't slide backward too far, that things are kept in some sort of balance, and that the social programs that we have all forgotten that we have are kept in place.   Call it a safety net for society, they have a purpose much greater than the Day Off mindset would believe.

So when you have your burger and beer, enjoy it, but give a thought to why you are able to have that day off.   I'll be in search of a Documentary.  Maybe I'll get that insight I'm looking for.  

Now, where's that remote?

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