True meaning of Labor Day

    "Goodbye, my sweet," I will say to my wife, Fidelity, as I leave the house this morning.
    "Where are you going?" she will ask.
    "To work, " Iíll reply. "Where else would I be going on Labor Day?"
   "But itís a holiday."
   "Not for me," Iíll say. "If it was meant to be a holiday, they should have called it Holiday Day, or Vacation Day. Calling it Labor Day does just the opposite. It gets me all charged up for work."
   "Youíre really weird," sheíll say as I close the front door.
   Perhaps. But I have certain nuances that I exercise for each holiday. At Christmas I open presents (oh, right, give presents), at Thanksgiving I eat heartily, New Yearís Day I watch football, and on Labor Day I work.
   It seems logical enough. The fact that my business is primarily retail and my stores are open and busy on Labor Day might also be an influence.
   Maybe thatís why Iíve had problems understanding the meaning of Labor Day. With most retail businesses enjoying an unusually brisk sales day, it makes sense that everyone involved simply work harder on Labor Day Ė hence the name.
   Realizing deep in my heart that I was totally off-base with this concept, I set out last week to find the true meaning of Labor Day. Naturally, I asked my sweet Fidelity, mother to my four children, first.
   "Thatís easy," she replied, wincing at the memories. "An obvious day to have a baby."
   Not much help there. I went off to work and began to ask a more appropriate group Ė my employees. Surely they must have the answers I was seeking.
   I cornered Josh last week in the warehouse, which would be closed on Labor Day. "What does Labor Day mean to you?" I asked.
   Joshís face fell. "Aw, I got plans. You donít need me to work, do you?"
   "No, no. I just want to know what it means to you."
   He looked at me like I was from another planet. Realizing I seriously wanted an answer, he shrugged, "Day off."
   Not everyone had the same response. Those who were scheduled to work would shrug and say, "Time and a half."
   Obviously, the meaning of Labor Day did not conjure up deep feelings of anything among the supposed honorees. Only Ralph, my general manager, had something substantial to say.
   "Barbecues, end of summer, back-to-school," he said after much thought.
   "Thatís the meaning of Labor Day?" I said, amazed at his shallow answer.
   "No, thatís not all," replied Ralph, indignant.
   "Good. What else?"
   He smiled. "Day off."
   Finally I asked my last hope, Ms. Ferguson, my loyal office manager.
   "Ms. Ferguson, please tell me the true meaning of Labor Day."
   A deep thinker, she took very little time in readying a response. "Give me five minutes and Iíll get back to you."
   Sure enough, five minutes later she buzzed me on the intercom. "Labor Day is a day to honor all the workers of the country for their contributions to the gross national product. It is a day to celebrate the sacrifices made by all workers for the common good."
   I appreciated her effort, but obviously she misunderstood. "No, no," I said. "I meant the meaning of Labor Day, not the old hammer and sickle ĎWorkers of the World Uniteí May Day."
   "I know the difference," she replied. "I was talking about Labor Day."
   Oh, I still didnít understand. If all the workers were sacrificing for the common good and being honored for contributing to the gross national product, why did they keep demanding raises in pay?
   "Thatís the difference!" said Ms. Ferguson, happy to have created a breakthrough. "Labor Day is also a celebration of the advances made by the American worker during this century as a result of the labor movement or government intervention."
   "You mean the laws creating minimum wages, workerís compensation, unemployment insuranceÖthings like that?"
   Ms. Ferguson nodded as I heard the stirrings of our national anthem in the far corner of my brain. "And child labor laws?" I asked, wiping away a tear.
   "Youíve got it!" cried Ms. Ferguson. "Does this mean weíll be closing the stores in honor of this great holiday?"
   I was moved, but not that moved. "No, it means I wonít moan about paying time and half."

 

 

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