Did you have a good Labor Day? Or did you work?For my money, this is the worst-regarded holiday of the year because its very reason for being has been lost, ignored or otherwise abused. National Dog Day on Aug. 26 got more attention.If you think Christmas has been exploited by our spend, spend, spend society while ignoring “the reason for the season,” consider Labor Day.
Instead of enjoying a day off from the daily grind, we still find reasons to work. Our ability to put in a day’s labor at any time of the day or night is made possible for those of us whose jobs allow us to work from home. Lucky us.But some among us have no choice about where and when they work. They are scheduled workers expected to show up, punch in and complete their shift and Labor Day be damned. Oh, the irony.Those who work in retail and the food service industry were probably the largest sector of Americans who were on the job Sept. 2. So were our cops, firefighters and emergency medical people and hospital personnel.Let’s hope you get compensated with time off or something extra in your paycheck. If you are a member of a labor union, your contract probably allows for some reward for toiling on a holiday. Especially this one.A bit of history. Labor Day began as recognition of the American labor movement, was made an official, recognized federal holiday in 1894 and honors everyone who has worked, is working now or will work in the future. That’s pretty much everyone, unless you are one of the Trump kids.I’ll admit I was an enabler for helping make Labor Day the oxymoron it has become. I worked and then went to the grocery store and made other people work.This is not right, so next year let’s vow not to do that.How about a movie instead? You won’t need to get out of your recliner or buy a ticket to see the ones we’re talking about.So on Labor Day 2020 pop in, download or stream one of these fine union made flicks:Relive “Norma Rae” and her adventures in union organizing. It’s fiction but “Harlan County U.S.A.,” a documentary, is not. It is the true story of what happened when Kentucky coal mine bosses refused to recognize their miners’ union contract and the violence that followed.“Matewan” is based on a real event in a different part of coal mine country and the shootout that follows a work stoppage by miners over unsafe working conditions.
Unfortunately, reviling unions and their members has not gone out of fashion. How many of you just grumbled an obscenity when you read the words “labor unions?” Or perhaps you cringed at visions of Jimmy Hoffa dancing in your head. Maybe you told yourself “unions are full of criminals and Communists.”There’s a movie to match that attitude. Try Jack Nicholson in “Hoffa” or Warren Beattie in “Reds” or how about Marlon Brando in “On the Waterfront.”No denying, there were some bad old days for the unions and they are an oft-told part of the labor movement’s history. But good things came from unions like safe working conditions, health insurance, profit sharing and dozens of benefits we take for granted.Where’s the Labor Day celebrations honoring these advancements? Where is the flag waving for collective bargaining and negotiated contracts? A brass band heralding the heroes of labor who made paid holidays and weekends possible and who, for their trouble, were treated to threats and violence.But you must admit union shenanigans have not made the headlines in a really long time. Instead, we find stories on the misdeeds of big business, chicanery on Wall Street, deception in our government and flimflam coming from the White House.Let’s grumble louder about those “transgressions” and try not to cringe at what these little sugar plums are getting away with.