These days Labor Day is mostly celebrated as a federal holiday that comes with a three-day weekend and marks the unofficial end of summer, but it’s still an appropriate time to ponder the significance of work and American workers.
The value of work has taken on new significance in recent years as unemployment lingers a little above 8 percent in the United States. Americans who don’t have jobs know better than anyone else the importance of working and earning a wage.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday “is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Those achievements certainly are worthy of celebration. Throughout our history, Americans have labored in many industries that support both their families and the nation’s economy.
Much of Americans’ sense of pride and identity is tied up in the jobs they hold. Sometimes those jobs are physically demanding, even dangerous. Sometimes, they are necessary but not particularly fulfilling. Yet, most workers have a sense of pride in the jobs they do and the ability those jobs give them to earn a living, support a home and perhaps have a little something left over for recreation.
The fact that unemployment rates remain stubbornly high is a matter of concern to all Americans. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, after hitting a decade low of 4.4 percent in 2007, the nation’s unemployment rate rose to 10 percent in October 2009. There has been an overall downward trend since that time, with July unemployment at 8.3 percent, but the jobless rate and the desire to create more jobs still is a top focus of current election campaigns at all levels. Whether they are running for mayor or president of the United States, candidates are quick to promise they will create more jobs and put more people to work if they are elected.
Those promises resonate with voters because they know the value of work. It not only supports the economy, it builds self-esteem and national pride. It upholds the promise of the American dream that those who work hard will be successful.
On Labor Day and every day, it’s important to honor the value of honest labor and the workers who do it.