Laborious irony

Welcome to America’s most ironic holiday, Labor Day.

You’ll encounter the irony just about anywhere you choose to go Monday where you have an opportunity to spend money.

If you’re spending, that means someone’s working.

If you’re speeding, you may meet someone who’s working, and you’ll be spending whether you like it or not.

If you get sick and have to go to a hospital emergency room, you’ll pray people are working, and if you’re sick enough, you won’t care how much you’re spending.

Labor Day was created to celebrate, well, laborers. Some mistakenly believe it was supposed to be for union members because unions quickly embraced it, but it wasn’t exclusive to them.

Labor Day was meant to celebrate the contributions of regular working-class Americans. The day was designed for parades in the morning and picnics and speeches in the afternoon.

Really. Look it up. It was a great idea, and if one ate enough at the picnic they could sleep through enough of a speech to make that part tolerable.

Fast-forward through the 20th century, noting along the way the ever-increasing number of regular working class Americans who found themselves working on the very day set aside to honor them.

If there’s one thing in which Americans have proven themselves exceptional, it’s in how to turn major holidays into major cash windfalls, Christmas chief among them.

Major retailers pull in their regular working class American employees to handle the deluge of shoppers flocking to holiday sales. Travel industry workers from convenience store clerks to hotel maids know they won’t get Labor Day off; they have to be on the job to make vacations of others possible.

All those regular working class Americans also know that most of their bosses will take Labor Day off; and no, we’re not talking about shift supervisors. We’re talking about “the bosses,” the ones who own the businesses and sign the checks.

If you’re lucky enough to work for a bank or government, you’re more likely to get Labor Day off no matter what your position.

Hats off to all of you for whom Labor Day is just another day on the job. You’re the people we’re supposed to be celebrating, and without your labor it would be, well, a day off for everyone.

That’s something we’ll never ever see in our lifetimes, a day off for everyone, and you can take that to the bank. Except on Monday.

Happy Labor Day.

— david colburn

Last modified Sept. 1, 2016

Quantcast