In 1899 the U.S. Congress enacted a law setting aside the first Monday in September, each year, as a way to show "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" to be followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. In 1899 the U.S. Congress enacted a law setting aside the first Monday in September, each year, as a way to show "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" to be followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families. Over the years the intent and meaning of Labor Day changed. Where once only essential services were staffed, it morphed into a day off for many Americans who enjoyed being served by the unlucky ones that had to open the retail shops which took the occasion to have end-of-Summer sales.
Eventually Labor Day joined the array of three-day weekends that serve to give the illusion that U.S. workers have 21 extra days off from work, in reality only 7 because they had the other 14 anyway. Labor Day is also the unofficial end of Summer and start of the Autumn season (officially September 22).
The Labor Day weekend this year got off to a less-than-welcome start as Friday morning the Government dumped its monthly unemployment figures on us, with the rate climbing to 9.7% overall. A 10% number seems to be a goal looked at with some unexplained anticipation by members of the media, and certain politicians, for somewhat dubious reasons. What is there about certain numbers? Why is 10% better than 9.9%? Yes, it represents hundreds of thousands of workers, but to the media it just seems easier to say and it has the magic "double digit" that the administration's opponents will use even after it drops back to single-digit levels.
I'd like to say that I spent the long weekend contemplating the unemployment numbers and reflecting on the state of labor in the United States. Instead, like most Americans I celebrated the end of Summer by indulging myself--after all, Congress used the word festival when creating the law.
I joined host Ron Schaeffer (an ILS Editorial Advisor) at his annual three-day Labor Day bash wherein rock music aficionados come to his New Hampshire farm to relax, eat roasted meats, drink, and enjoy music supplied by a series of bands, mostly made up of amateurs, who rotated at the microphones set up in Ron's barn. For my part, I sat in on the drums for a session of Ron's Band. If you know Ron you know that he revels in playing music (the fact that he is very good at it makes it enjoyable for his audience and friends). This year he equipped himself with wireless devices that let him wander as he played and sang; not an easy thing for this drummer who was left alone in the barn backing him up as he and the other guitar players roamed the grounds entertaining his invited guests.
In a final DAB insult to the spirit of Labor Day, I joined close friends at a lobster feast that had as its centerpiece several multi-pound lobsters (or "lobstahs" as we say in New England.) Now, I like lobstahs, in fact really love eating them, but this affair was the equivalent of a Roman Bacchanalia. Many of you will have had a standard 1 ½-pound lobster at a clam bake, so think about crustaceans almost six times larger. At this meal we diners were dealing with shelled eight-pound lobsters, enough to feed three times our numbers. I set my own record by consuming the meat from a claw the size of my hand that easily weighed over a pound. I'm here to tell you that this is lot of lobstah, even for a New Englander.
The mention of these two events is given as an example of how the Labor Day commemoration has denigrated in meaning. Not once during the activities was the unemployment number or the fate of hungry workers addressed. None of my fellow celebrants worried about the concerns of labor, when we will hit the magic 10% number, or the parlous state of manufacturing in the U.S. Only as I sit at the keyboard, typing this as the long weekend closes, have I given it any thought at all; my main concern being to entertain you, not to present any embarrassment for my story.