Sunday, September 6, 2009
This weekend is Labor Day for people in the United States. History.com describes it as "the celebration of the value and dignity of work, and its role in the American way of life." Which is how it's viewed today.
But in reality, Labor day came from the struggles of workers in the late 1800's/early 1900's to demand better working conditions and a livable wage. "With the long hours and terrible working conditions, American unions became more prominent and voiced their demands for a better way of life. On Tuesday September 5, 1882, 10,000 workers marched from city hall to Union Square in New York City, holding the first-ever Labor Day parade. Participants took an unpaid day-off to honor the workers of America, as well as vocalize issues they had with employers."
It's a different work force today. I don't think we can truly imagine the rough conditions. I know they still exist in many countries where people have no rights to protest. They even exist here in secret sweat shops staffed by illegal immigrants. But for the vast majority of our workforce, they are unimaginable. Labor day becomes an end of summer celebration, a bank holiday, the beginning of school and football and harvest. Perhaps that is a good thing. Better still to remember the history of the Labor movement, the struggles of the industrial revolution and those brave souls who spoke up, put their lives on the line and made a difference for all workers.
As writers we understand long hours for very little pay, but we do it out of love for our craft, love of story. We do it in comparatively cushy environments without supervisors standing over our shoulders docking our pay. We can take a day off (baring looming deadlines). We can get up from our work and return later. We can breathe clean air, take a sick day, have a life. Find balance when we remember there is more to life than catching the next trend, creating the next bestseller, following a dream. So, on this holiday perhaps it's a good time to stop, put down your work, look around and celebrate the fact that you have the freedom to do so.