Joseph Alonzo -
September 2, 2012
Imagine if we had employee day. A single day, celebrated annually, which paid tribute to the dedication and achievements of our work throughout the year. Perhaps, we would be given a day off from work; one that attaches itself to a Saturday and Sunday, thus forming a three-day weekend. Now, that would be nice! A day for travel and food, friends and family, hobbies or hibernating—a day for us to do anything we wish.
Now, stop imagining. That day exists, and we call it Labor Day.
Here is a brief history of Labor Day, which is best understood when visualizing it being read by a fast-talking voice-over specialist circa 1920.
The concept of Labor Day was first suggested by Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor in1882 after witnessing the annual labor festival held in Toronto, Canada. Five years later, Oregon became the first state to make it a holiday (Way to go, Oregon!). Resistance to the ideas grew, and following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland reconciled with a leader of the labor movement. Fearing further conflict, the United States Congress unanimously voted that Labor Day should become a national holiday.
Every state observes Labor Day as a day that commemorates the employee, or more precisely, the individual, for all their hard work. Somehow, the service industry, as traditionally defined, seemed to have missed the memo. My favorite coffee shop down the street, for instance, began serving patrons at dawn, and my sister, a hair-stylist, woke early to open her salon. It is a curious exception considering each of us is responsible for providing a service for someone. Surely, their type of employer-ship warrants the same privileges as industries that observe Labor Day as it was intended to be observed.
Certainly, this is a discussion for another occasion, yet ironically, it provides a point of perspective amongst those of us who were given the day to do as we please. For many of us Labor Day marks the end of summer, while for others it signifies the beginning of the American football and political seasons. It has become a critical day of the year—a mile-marker. Just as we created Labor Day, I might suggest we create mini-labor day’s to spread the appreciative spirit; days when we gather with co-workers after the completion of an arduous task, as well as moments during those tasks to celebrate the efforts of our colleagues. After all, Labor Day is as much about having a day off from work as it is about being appreciated.
I hope you enjoyed your Labor Day, working Labor Day, and pending mini-labor days!
Now that everyone has returned happy and well rested from the holiday, be sure to keep them that way by reading last week's blog 10 Keys to Happy Companies.
Joseph holds a Master’s in Organizational Development from Saybrook University, and is an education and innovation consultant in the San Francisco, Bay Area. Joseph is a guest blogger for Great Place to Work®.