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What does Labor Day mean to you?

In Business, history, Holiday, National News, Opinion, Uncategorized on August 31, 2016 at 9:00 am

Deer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

The American Labor Day holiday was first organized and celebrated by the Central Labor Union in New York City on Tuesday, September 5, 1882. Two year later, as the idea spread to celebrate a “workingmen’s holiday,” the union selected the first Monday in September to be the official, common date.

All across the country, industrial centers began holding celebrations of their own, following general guidelines set in the first proposal of the holiday. Each would include a street parade, a festival and amusements all for the enjoyment of the workers and their families.

labor day photo

Photo Courtesy US Department of Labor.

The legislation that established Labor Day as a legal holiday was passed on February 21, 1887 in the state of Oregon and four more states followed suit that same year. There is some dispute, even a century later, as to who was the actual “founder” of the holiday, but that should be left to your own research.
For most modern Americans, Labor Day is just another day off and a last break to end summer. But it should still be held as a celebration of the working class who build our streets, run our factories, and keep the infrastructure of America up and running.

When I think of Labor Day, I think of those in my family who worked long, exhausting hours with low pay and virtually no benefits or vacation time. Many worked at National Cash Register (NCR) in Dayton, Ohio. In fact, my father worked there during the 1950s and 60s for a whopping $1.50 per hour (around $9 in today’s money), and that was some 30 cents higher than the minimum wage at the time.

In my opinion, hard work is something a lot of modern Americans today seem to be allergic to, for lack of a better description. Our information-driven economy has many of us office-bound, tied to a desk and a computer screen rarely to experience the kind of manual work necessary at the turn of the century when the Labor Day holiday first started.

Constant complaints about how immigrants “take” the jobs of Americans are unfounded, to say the least. Those jobs are always available but no one seems to want them – they’re hard. Immigrants looking for a home in the Land of the Free simply appear to be more willing to work, taking any job necessary to provide for their families. America was built on this kind of fortitude and it should be admired.

Instead of being so closed-minded Americans should be more appreciative that someone is still willing to work hard without complaint, day in and day out, to the benefit of the rest of us. Papers or not, any person willing to work hard in this country and benefit the greater good is an American.

I come from a long line of hard workers. There was no privilege in any branch of my family and I mean absolutely none. My ancestors and immediate family were factory workers, truck drivers, farmers, coal miners, and a host of other grueling occupations. To me, Labor Day is a day to salute my own heritage and a way to be thankful that my family saw fit to encourage me to go to college and pursue my own interests.

But I was not coddled nor did I have it easy. I paid for my own education. I drove a truck for my dad, worked in a plastics factory, swept floors, worked in a tire and auto repair shop, and helped manage our farm and livestock. Without those experiences, I’d be a very different person and I’m grateful for them. I still do that kind of work on occasion, but, gratefully, I don’t have to depend on it for my livelihood and I have the utmost respect for those who do.

So this Labor Day, regardless of your occupation, income or professional position, consider those who might have it tougher or may not have the same privileges. Labor Day celebrates all workers, but the highest tribute should go to those who do the hardest work and continue to maintain the standard of living for Americans in all walks of life.

 

Gery L. Deer is an independent columnist and business writer. Deer In Headlines is distributed by GLD Enterprises Communications, Ltd. More at deerinheadlines.com.

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Don’t Sweat the Holidays

In Children and Family, Entertainment, Food, Opinion, Religion, Senior Lifestyle, sociology, Uncategorized on December 11, 2012 at 12:27 pm

hopDeer In Headlines
By Gery L. Deer

Every year about this time, people wrap up their Christmas shopping, attend uncomfortable social functions and worry about New Year’s resolutions they have no intention of keeping. It’s a stressful time emotionally, financially and socially. In the end, Darwinian Theory incarnate enables one to reach the finish line of January 1st without a nervous breakdown – survival of the fittest, beginning with Christmas parties.

Between family gatherings and holiday office parties, we spend about half our free time in December enduring the company of people we don’t necessarily like or want to be around the rest of the time. The point of all of this unwarranted schmoozing varies depending on your particular position in society.

If you’re a corporate exec hosting an event, you’re expected to make a good show of the holidays, pretending that you’re generous and thoughtful to those whose backs you stepped on in order to get where you are today. As an underling, you’re required to fain some misplaced exposition of loyalty to people who neither appreciate your hard work and long hours nor identify with your problems just trying to make ends meet. Of course, the ridiculous doesn’t stop there.

I debated whether to even mention fruitcake. It seems like a trite and highly over-dramatized topic, but still may warrant some scrutiny. It’s not the actual fruitcake that should be considered, but what it represents. Along with the late Twinkie, the fruitcake has been touted as one of the few sources of food, if you can call it that, which might actually survive after a nuclear disaster.

In truth, the fruitcake is a symbol of the requirement bestowed on today’s society that we give – and give a lot – to people we don’t even like. Now there are people out there for whom fruitcake is a genuine treat, they may be in need of some psychiatric help, but they do exist. But giving the fruitcake because it’s an easy buy in fulfillment of the gift requirement is just ridiculous.

Along with the requisite gifts comes a host of holiday cards clogging the mailbox from people you don’t talk to any other time but to whom you are now suddenly obligated to return the gesture in a never-ending cycle of artificial sentiment. The constant worry over whether to send a “Christmas” card or more generic holiday greeting is maddening. Get over it already. How offensive could it be to receive a note that wishes someone good cheer? Apparently it offends a great many people, but not enough for me to worry about.

Outdoors, we inevitably decorate the house in hopes of being noticed by some neighborhood committee arbitrarily voting on who shelled out the most for new LED light strings, to say nothing of excessive electric bills. In a variation of the “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality, each house along the street progresses with increasing gaudiness, ranging from a lighted reindeer whose flashing lights on its legs make it appear to be running, to two-story, inflatable representations of the Nativity which look like they would be more at home at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. And the list goes on.

Now all of this might seem a little cynical and, at some point, everyone thinks about this stuff but most people would never admit to any of it. We’re generally happy just going along with everything and continuing in the repetitive traditions of our families or friends. In the end, the holidays were meant as a time of celebration but for many they can bring depression, anxiety and frustration. Recognizing the causes of these feelings can be a first step in easing them a bit, before they thoroughly take over.

Some things you just have to accept. There are the haves and the have-nots, along with those who don’t care one way or another. Christmas, Hanukkah, Solstice, or whatever you celebrate, don’t forget the point and, like the saying goes, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”