2005-09-01 / Sam Bari

Labor Day – the unsung holiday

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

Labor Day – the unsung holiday
You can’t beat a system you can’t understand

Labor Day is a holiday of convenience that I believe was so named because it works harder than all the other holidays put together. On the surface, it marks the last working day that we have off at the official end of the summer vacation season. However, that is just the beginning of the duties of this low profile, not very glamorous holiday, that doesn’t really celebrate anything warranting a significant party.

Labor Day launches the beginning of school, the opening of football season, and the major league baseball playoffs. And let’s not forget the start of the new television season, as well as the welcoming of real news back to the airwaves.

After Labor Day we’ll hear no more wimpy broadcasts about the length of the president’s vacations, celebrity trials, or Martha’s removal of her ankle bracelet. No sir, we can brace ourselves for the good stuff. Business executives return from their summer getaway mansions in top form on Labor Day. They’re ready to introduce new scandals and initiate inventive embezzlement schemes to defraud confused shareholders out of their hard-earned dollars.

The president will return to Washington to attempt to defend his policies, load the Supreme Court to the right, and try to convince his constituents that the high price of gas at the pumps is not his fault.

Labor Day is solely responsible for launching the “news with substance season,” with promises of more crime, more political circuses, and a generous helping of international crisis.

Hmmm . . . that’s a lot of responsibility for one little holiday. I think we should examine all holidays closely and see if Labor Day is being treated fairly among other days that enjoy legal national holiday status.

Our crack team of researchers tells us that it all started with the Russians who had a holiday that honored the accomplishments of the work force. It was officially celebrated on May 1 and they called it May Day. We Americans needed a day like that but didn’t want to associate our holiday with a communist celebration. Consequently, our heads of state debated the issue and decided that the end of summer was sorely in need of a festive occasion.

In 1882, when the government officially recognized Labor Day as a legal holiday, Samuel Gompers, founder and longtime president of the American Federation of Labor, was thrilled. Little did he know that his special day would carry heavy burdens.

The itinerary for Labor Day soon filled with a growing list of responsibilities, unlike other “major” holidays that were given adequate time to dispense of their duties. Most holidays, like Martin Luther King Day, Presidents’ Day, Memorial Day, and Independence Day had singular responsibilities honoring people or events.

Thanksgiving is celebrated on a Thursday, giving celebrants three days to rest up after the big feast and launch the unofficial beginning of the holiday season. Then a month of shopping and decorating is allocated to prepare for the event of the year, which actually starts on Christmas Eve. Then, a full five days of festivities and relaxation follow Christmas day in anticipation of New Year’s Eve when the coming year is welcomed and Jan. 1 takes over. Plenty of time is allowed for the holiday spirit to be embraced and leisurely enjoyed.

A serious inequity needs to be addressed. We must write to Congress and insist that Labor Day be given proper respect and adequate time to do its duties. I think a week would be sufficient. We should encourage Congress to extend this unsung holiday to Labor Day Week to give us an opportunity to adjust our body clocks from beach time to real time after long arduous journeys from cottage country and other exotic places.

We need more time to prepare for opening-game parties. We also have to unpack, ease our way back into the workplace, get school clothes in order, and familiarize ourselves with the fall television schedule. If Congress resists, we could show them the strength of the labor movement and strike . . . Oops! Did I say the “S” word? I did. I said labor and strike in the same sentence. A mere slip of the tongue, I assure you. That would be extreme wouldn’t it? A bit over the top, you might say. No, we must feel strongly about this issue and take action. All holidays should be treated equally. Don’t you think?

Anyway, have a happy Labor Day, folks. May all your labors be labors of love.

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