I wrote this on Labor Day back in 2014:
From the US Department of Labor website:
“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr also said of labor:
“We must set out to do a good job, irrespective of race, and do it so well that nobody could do it better.
“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. Even if it does not fall in the category of one of the so-called big professions, do it well. As one college president said, “A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.”
Today is the day we celebrate a job well done. It’s important to not only take pride in how well we do our job, but resolve to do it better; to become indispensable. Even if (or especially if) that job is considered “below” other jobs.
Because if we were all doctors and lawyers, who would pick up the trash, or clean our sewers?
Even better, perhaps we should use this day to thank others for doing those so-called thankless jobs.
I, for one, thank you.
I would like to add a few other observations:
This year has been difficult (to put it mildly) to endure with regard to labor. Many have been told their jobs are “inessential,” to the point they’ve permanently lost them. Some have been working under extreme conditions to the point they’ve been yelled at, attacked, even killed. Just because they were doing their jobs.
Slight aside: Because I can’t wear a mask, shopping even in places where masks are not required, I feel uncomfortable. I often get glares from those wearing masks. I still try to put on a smile for them, mostly to disarm and let them know, “I understand you, so please understand me.” I smile more broadly for others who don’t to encourage. To let them know they’re not alone.
The employees I am even more kind to, because none of them have a choice to wear a mask or not, and must enforce company policy whether they like it or not—if they want to remain employed. They are in an untenable position I do not envy, and nor do I blame them. So I hope, regardless of your position on masks (or any other company policy you disagree with), we treat every employee with kindness and gratitude, and above all, as though they are essential. Because they are.