Labor Day in the US, Celebrating Workers

Today is a national holiday in the US. Called Labor Day, it was designed to celebrate the people who formed the backbone of our manufacturing power, yet who were otherwise ignored and put down.

The job market has changed dramatically over the past 50 years. Manufacturing jobs are still little celebrated but much better jobs than they were. People working retail and at many clerical-type jobs are the ones today who have a tough time. Working hours organized to keep them at part-time status so that the company can avoid paying for benefits such as health care (which has become so expensive that many companies would go out of business paying for it). Feeling like just part of a vast machinery in huge companies is the state of many.

Part of my reading in my master’s degree work was labor–partly philosophy about how people became “alienated” from the fruits of their labor, and partly the politics of the labor movement from the late 1800s to the mid-1900s.

The idea of alienation came from the rise of “capitalists”–those people with sufficient money (capital) to build manufacturing plants and organize the production of goods. Prior to that, products were designed and produced by crafts people working usually alone. Think of the village blacksmith. People went from building products where they felt it was a little piece of them to just a cog in a machine.

Today, many people still fee that way.

However, today often it is more attitude than slavery to capitalists. Adam Grant writing in “The Originals: How Non-Conformists Move the World,” (I’ve just begun the book, but the first few chapters are interesting) looks at how some people bend certain rules or find unique ways of approaching their work and find much more satisfaction.

As in so many things, it is our attitude and approach to work that determines the satisfaction and performance.

So, today we celebrate those who do so much for us and yet remain often unsung and anonymous.

 

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