What does Labor Day means to you?

Labor Day is Here Again!

What does Labor Day means to you? For many it’s only the unofficial end of summer, start of the school year and football season, or an extra day off to do stuff around the home and have an excuse for a picnic. 

Yet, at the time of the first labor day celebration on September 5, 1882 in New York City 10,000 citizens marched for labor rights down the streets of Manhattan. During this time the average American worked 12 hours a day, six days a week. It wasn't until the Adamson Act passed on September 3, 1916 that our modern eight-hour work day was established. 

Celebrated on the first Monday in September, Labor Day is one of just 10 federal holidays in the United States and pays tribute to the American workers movement.

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the holiday is “a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers.” Labor Day is a “yearly national tribute” to the “contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity and wellbeing of our country.”

For me, Labor Day as a symbol of the freedom to choose.

What kind of choices do you have?

For employees at good companies, Labor Day means the freedom to:

  • choose a vocation,

  • learn new skills and grow,

  • be rewarded for merit,

  • have decent work conditions,

  • have pride in how you spend a big part of the day.

It also means the freedom to leave jobs and managers which do not fit. It ultimately means you live in a country where your occupation is not decided by your parents or the government or your ethnicity, but by your free choice.

For leaders, the freedom to choose means you have the obligation and opportunity to lead well. 

This is both a burden at times and a joy at others. Leaders today deal with rapid change and gray areas of decision-making. It was probably easier to be a leader in a highly-structured environment (such as union factories in the 1950s), but also less-rewarding. 

How can you  optimize your freedom to choose?

Good leaders and mentors are key to effective workplaces. The creators of Labor Day understood that for America to achieve its promise of freedom and opportunity, Americans had to be united in working hard, but fairly. They also had to collaborate, learn continually, and of course relax occasionally. 

As a leader you can:

  • Choose to work to continuously improve your performance and that of your people.

  • Strive to keep labor competitive.

  • Inspire a new generation of workers to contribute their best.

  • Reconnect your workers to the American Dream.

  • Nurture and develop new thinking leaders.

Remember. . .

Labor Day was established as a day to honor the strength and spirit of the labor movement and working people.

Today, It should be about celebration and invigoration. It should be about innovation and reinvention. Join “all people who work” to make Labor Day again a day to reignite the American dream through unity of purpose and collaboration.