Happy Labor Day, a holiday we don’t think about terribly often outside of “cool, a long weekend.” But, for nearly a century, American workers fought, marched, striked and bled — and in a lot of cases died — for the right to collectively bargain, to form Locals, to have the sweat of their hands and the toil of their minds compensated, protected, and to do their jobs in as safe a manner as the work permits. No company stores; no sweat shops; no Pinkertons; no cradle-to-grave serfdom in an increasingly industrializing world.
We don’t think too much about our labor now.
We have jobs or careers or dreams — or are training for any number of these. And, this despite the fact that real wages have stagnated for 40 years, its buying power decreased even as inflation inexorably marches on. This, despite the fact that American workers are by far the most industrious and productive in the world — and have been for decades. When you’re deciding which bill can wait a month, or how long those tires can make it, the abstractions of our labor and philosophizing over the market system become rapidly lost in the real-life battles we wage to survive and thrive.
I count myself fortunate to have had a strong back and hands, to have had technical skills and mechanical ability, to have had the aptitude to earn a higher education. As as result, I’ve been able to paint signs, compose albums, roof in the relentless Southern heat; to wash dishes, tend bar, be an EMT; to hack around at newspapers and sportswriting; to protect the life and liberty and property of those I’ve sworn to defend and represent. I’ve carried a rifle; I’ve worn an apron; I’ve worn suits; and, I’ve worn blood spilled on the highways. I’ve been the Bastard Boss and I’ve been the Tom Job rabble-rouser. But, all of those jobs were worth doing, and they were all worth doing well and to the best of my ability.
That doesn’t make me special. I like to think that makes me an average American.
I’m the grumpiest optimist you’ll ever meet: I like to most of us are like that, though our life trajectories and skills differ. We work not merely as a means to an end, but often as an end unto itself. We find some joy in the toil and some small satisfaction in knowing that we did a pretty damned good job...even if we do deserve a raise (and we do.)
The goal at the end of the day has always been one we share — from the board rooms, mine shafts, bar wells, cube farms, corner offices, fulfillment centers, Ubers or 18-wheelers: Punch a clock, do your time, find meaning and dignity in your job, put a roof over your head, food on your table, come back home to your family and loved ones or fur babies. Have a better life than your folks; leave a better life behind you.
Enjoy your well-earned day off, America. Your labor bought today for you; this is not a gift.
We’ll be back this evening with our VT-FSU preview and thread. Here’s your open board for the day, however. Feel free to talk about what you do for a living, or are in school for, or what you want to do when you grow up (you can also slag on your bastard boss — we won’t tell.)