Labor Day has evolved, like many American holidays, from its original intent and practice. Once a product of, and a salute to, organized labor, the holiday has become the unofficial end of summer in the North and, in states such as Florida, the onset of another month of hurricane season.
For many workers, the holiday will make for the third day of a nice, long weekend away from the job site.
But in our around-the-clock, every-day-is-a-shopping-day society, millions of Americans report to work even on official holidays — staffing stores, taking online orders, serving food and drinks, towing cars, safeguarding swimmers, publishing and delivering newspapers, and more.
And, as always, there are those who work the holiday weekend to provide essential services — caring for patients in hospitals and nursing homes, maintaining and repairing public utilities, enforcing the law and rescuing people from dangerous conditions. The pressures of their jobs only intensify when a hurricane like Dorian threatens Florida and other states.
Those who have jobs that provide time off this weekend should be grateful, not only for the employment and the respite but for those who will work to keep us safe and to support the economy.
We should remember as well that it wasn’t so long ago that millions of individual Americans and families were devastated financially by unemployment.
In Florida, as unemployment rates rose, families lost their homes, businesses closed or conducted deep layoffs, and people who were once donors to charities and social-service organizations became recipients.
Fortunately, unemployment rates now are low, very low. Whereas many employers laid off workers during the recession, today they're scrambling to attract, hire and retain qualified employees.
Despite having jobs, however, many workers struggle to make ends meet every year, especially as housing and health care costs continue to escalate.
The Business Roundtable, which includes chief executives from America’s biggest corporation, has taken note. A recent communication from the group stated:
“We know that many Americans are struggling. Too often hard work is not rewarded, and not enough is being done for workers to adjust to the rapid pace of change in the economy. If companies fail to recognize that the success of our system is dependent on inclusive long-term growth, many will raise legitimate questions about the role of large employers in our society.”
“The American dream is alive, but fraying,” Jamie Dimon, the chairman and CEO of JPMorgan who also chairs the Business Roundtable, said in a prepared statement.
Indeed, credible analyses have found that corporate profits have far outpaced employee compensation since the early 2000s.
Profits are vital. But unless they are shared fairly with workers, the traditional American belief in the value of hard work is diminished and society crumbles.
Every Labor Day is more than a holiday. It is recognition of the contributions of Americans who work to keep our country going.
A version of this editorial appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune