Labor Day

Labor Day is a major holiday for me, not that I normally do much of anything then, but because of what it means to me. When I was young—which actually did happen—Labor Day was new clothes, new books, new teachers, maybe new girls if I was lucky.

And back in Minneapolis, Labor Day was my first date with my new family, not to mention that Labor Day is also the last day of the state fair, a very big deal in Minnesota.

Now Labor Day means cold, rainy weather on the way and much less sitting in the sun, these days one of my favorite cheap thrills. It also signals the coming of the semi-annual month or two between air conditioning and heating when I can pay my PG&E bills in full.

Wikipedia says that Labor Day originated with a Knights of Labor parade in New York Sept. 5, 1882. Some groups wanted Labor Day established as a May 1 holiday. Then the Haymarket riot in Chicago occurred May 4, 1886—during a nationwide strike for an eight-hour working day—and President Grover Cleveland apparently didn’t want Labor Day to turn into a commemoration of the riot, during which seven cops died. How many people the Chicago police killed that day is unknown.

To avoid strengthening the socialist movement, Cleveland supported a September date, and Congress made the first Monday in September a federal holiday in 1894.

Labor Day is a holiday for workers, in honor of working people. Most people work at something, but in this context “worker” means someone who works for someone else, somebody who rents himself out to others in order to help them achieve their goals, usually making money, sometimes just increasing shareholder value.

I’ve had more than 50 jobs, from editor to switchman, executive director to tree trimmer, and Labor Day gets more and more poignant for me, staring at old age and Social Insecurity.

I’ve helped a lot of people and organizations make money, and all but a handful of times I would never have been involved in an effort like that on my own, for my own benefit and satisfaction. I rented out my mind and body for pay, as you probably do. I’ve heard Les Brown and others talk about most employers providing just enough money to keep the workers from quitting and workers doing just enough to keep from being fired. It’s the free market in action.

On nearly every job I ever had, I was a whore, and I think most of us are, unless we spend our days fulfilling our hearts’ desires. If you hate going to your job, if you dream of never going back, you’re a whore, too, prostituting your talents and time, selling your life for God knows what.

I could say more about all this, but it’s starting to feel like work.

This was published in the Chico News & Review August 28, 2008.

Posted Monday, September 7th, 2009 under Chicago, government, Uncategorized, work.

Leave a Reply