Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much. (Helen Keller)
The school year has begun and summer is winding down. However, before we get into the full swing of autumn, we have one last “hurrah” this coming weekend as we celebrate the final summer holiday in our country: Labor Day.
It should be very telling that one of these three major holidays each summer is devoted to remembering the Labor Movement and all they have done for our society. If you think about it, we are holding it up next to those who gave their lives to defend our nation and the celebration of the birth of our country. That’s a very big deal, though we often overlook its significance.
There are countless privileges we take for granted that did not exist even a hundred years ago. Everything from weekends to safety regulations, pensions, overtime pay, reasonable work hours, even sick leave and protections against discrimination – all are the result of those who have gone before us and banded together to ensure that everyone was looked after. And that’s not even mentioning what is perhaps the most important gift the Labor Movement have given us.
Just over a century ago, nearly twenty percent of workers in the United States were under the age of sixteen. The children were employed full-time from the South on farms and plantations to the North where industry reigned. It was not until nearly 1950 that all American children were protected and given the chance to go to school – though there are still gaps to this day that are abused to keep immigrant children working full-time from a young age. Protecting the next generation and giving them space to grow and thrive is one of our most important tasks as a community of humans. While there is still work to be done, all of the strides that have been made to date have been the result of those in the Labor Movement.
Here is what we have to consider – every summer, we rest on three days to remember our fundamental values. Those holidays demonstrate clearly what those core principles are: Service. Freedom. Solidarity.
None of us is an island unto ourselves. Our lives are all interconnected. It is time we start caring as much about those we choose ignore as much as ourselves. Because in the end, we all need each other to survive, to find hope, to thrive in this world.
So as this holiday weekend approaches, let us remember those goals for which we strive as a nation:
To serve, even to the point of laying down our lives, that others may live in safety and find a better life.
To work until all people are free from tyranny and oppression in all its forms.
To stand together in solidarity so that every person within our realm, from our youngest to our oldest, may find the fullness of life we all deserve.
We are all contributing members. It’s time we pay attention to our history and start acting like it. Happy Labor Day!