Real meaning of Labor Day

September 1, 2014

Real-meaning-of-Labor-DayLabor Day was intended to celebrate the achievements of the American labor movement and workers. That’s the real meaning of Labor Day. Of course, now it honors all kinds of workers. But really, it honors having a day off.

Non-Labor Day, you might say.

I vaguely remember my own labor days. Yes, I once belonged to a labor union, briefly: meat packers. Union dues and all.

My father knew the president of Star Markets in Rochester, so the summer before college I wrapped meat in the butcher department of the local Star Market.  I didn’t think about it at the time, but maybe that job was the executive’s backhanded commentary on being asked to get a high school grad a summer job.

In any case, I had no problem with it–except when liver came down the line–got good at wrapping meat and even found a cute summer boyfriend among the stock boys.

And then I got grounded for the summer, which put an end to that. So that was my experience of the American Labor Movement.

My long career meant I had thousands of days of one kind of labor or another, but today I celebrate the fact that I do not need to labor at all. No, those days are over for me and to that I say, YIPPEE!

And like the cat on that picnic table, I’m going to spend the day relaxing and rejoicing that labor is no longer a part of my life.

How about you? Been part of the Labor movement? How are you spending the day?

36 comments on “Real meaning of Labor Day
  1. Hmm. You never mentioned why you got grounded….:-)

    I remember Star Market from my college days in Boston. Loved that store. Wrapping liver. Uh, no thank you.

    No more labor? Lucky you, my friend. Have fun and Happy Labor Day!

  2. Karen says:

    I’ve never belonged to a union, but I was grounded for an entire summer once. I too am celebrating non-Labor Day too. Xo

  3. I hope people/workers understand that their 40 hour work week, overtime pay, no child miners, and more or less safe working conditions are thanks to the American labor movement. As with all large organizations, there have been abuses, but while I’m not having to go to work today, I’d like to give a shout out to American unions.

  4. This is really good. My daughter’s first job was with the local butcher. She didn’t “love” the work but she sure loved the “paycheck”.

  5. Never belonged to a labor union. Imagining the liver “come down the line” does make me think of a job I had in a leather factory doing piece work. Ran a glue machine all day. One of the rules that was enforced by the supervisor prevented co-workers from speaking to each other, of course we broke that rule as soon as he was out of ear shot. Let’s just say I would have been thrilled to have been grounded from that!

  6. Janie Emaus says:

    My first job was at the zoo. My dad knew someone who got me the job. And I’ve been working ever since. Until….this year!!! Now I’m semi-retired and loving it.

  7. Karen says:

    I’ve belonged to labour unions, and have proudly walked the picket line (while having stones thrown at us from passing cars). My father was on the management side at one point in his career, and I’ll never forget him telling me, following a long and especially arduous contract negotiation process, “You know, even though I have to negotiate on the other side of the table, I have to admit that 90% of what the unions ask for is just the right thing to do.” It was an unusual statement for him to make, as he was not the kind of guy to admit when he was in the wrong, so it really stuck with me.

  8. Hi Carol! I’ve never once worked for a union and have mostly been self employed my entire life. The good news is that I’ve been able to take “rest days” any time I’ve wanted or needed to. Of course the other side of that is that I’ve never had a steady paycheck. Would I trade it? Not EVER! 🙂

    Have a peaceful and restful Labor Day! ~Kathy

  9. Haralee says:

    Labor day I will be a kitchen slave to my garden produce. It is fun and I will be greatly rewarded this winter when I reach for frozen tomato sauce or stuffed peppers etc!
    I was in a teacher’s union and for a summer job another union that I can’t recall back in 1978!

  10. WendysHat says:

    I always thought of it as the end of Summer. I’ll be enjoying the day off with family but I refuse to let Summer end for me this year just yet!

  11. Donna says:

    Unions in Las Vegas are a tad different from other places. When I was growing up the culinary union was run by the mob and did all the major financing of casinos. Culinary money opened the Stardust, Caesars, Flamingo, Tropicana, the Dunes and Thunderbird. So my view was slightly different. Then when my husband ran a hotel and casino he did everything he could to comply with the unions. Not a bright spot in our past. My number one complaint is that they tell their members who to vote for. And they check…Unions started off with a very noble cause, but like most “groups” it stops being about what it is supposed to be about and instead becomes about the group.
    Unfortunately my day will be all about work, or is that fortunately? I just want to sit and write…oh well.

  12. I remember Star Market well from years of living in Boston! You couldn’t pay me to wrap liver. Ugh.

  13. Ellen Dolgen says:

    Back in the day Unions protected people from being abused by their employers. They were important for sure. I married a man who grew up in a union family. His father came over from Russia and became a cutter. He didn’t speak any English at the time. He worked his way up to be a Vice President of the International Ladies Garment Workers. Growing up in Tucson – my father was in the hotel business – non of our hotels were union. That being said, I am with you, Carol. I shall not be laboring today! Happy Labor Day!

  14. Ruth Curran says:

    I am going to take some time today to remember why I believe in the power of collective bargaining. I grew up in the home of more manufacturing plants than I can even remember (from steel to soap to meat packing and everywhere between). Unions ruled the world, drove politics, and honestly saved lives. I don’t think I will ever shake the feeling that unions were and, in many cases, still are the best way to protect workers. Real collective bargaining gave a voice to the worker and keeps that worker safe and protected. We lost some of that spirit along the way but the value, in many cases, is still there.

  15. Lana says:

    My mom called this morning – I asked what they were doing for labor day – she said “Every day is labor day when you’re retired”. I knew what she meant – but it sounded funny! Have a great day :)!

  16. I am ever grateful for what unions have done for the American worker but I feel they are no longer needed and full of corruption. There are now laws on the books that protect us.
    Today I am working with the elderly.
    What did you do??

  17. Liv says:

    I’ve been a member of two different unions. And my parents were stewards. Labor Day has usually meant a parade or two and some flags and a picnic. And then when I became a mother, labor took on a whole different meaning. Thanks for reminding us Carol!

  18. Kim says:

    Loved this, Carol! It’s funny to think back at all the odd summer jobs we’ve had. Glad to have gotten to know you more through this post 🙂

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