Written by Jim Carr
Chemung County Democratic Committee Chair
Summer is coming to an end as we approach another Labor Day. For many Americans including retirees
this weekend signals the end of summer activities. With school opening after Labor Day, many summer
vacations our winding down, and fall is not to far away, it is time to savor another Labor Day. Many of
us will be gathering with families and groups of friends as summer comes to an end. With this in mind
we need to stop and appreciate the meaning of this civil holiday.
When America was founded, most of the people were either farmers, men of the sea or involved in
some related fields. As people moved inland, and with people becoming more aware of how enormous
America really was, it was natural for people to choose other professions even that of a discerner. As
the railroad developed, mining of many natural resources became a way of life which helped build the
county. As technology refined, labor took on a new face. The more traditional modes of work
remained, but the American thirst for innovation became prominent.
Labor organized: unions found their niche in society while promoting a greater emphasis on the dignity
of a working person. Labor Day Developed as a way of showcasing the backbreaking labor that made
America strong, independent, self-sufficient and the economic catalyst for the world. Early Labor Day
parades were made up of the common man who went to work, took pride in what he did, was paid a
fair wage, and reminded our country of her pride in her citizens. Labor Day parades were not to
highlight politicians but to honor working folks who who went to work day after day providing for their
family while building a middle class.
Of all the national holidays we have, Labor Day doesn’t get the attention it deserves maybe because
corporate America has not found a way to commercialize it like they have Christmas and other major
holidays. Another reason is that the original intent of this day has pretty much vanished since labor
unions have become a part of the American business environment. It is important to remember that
unions were the early voice of the ordinary worker advocating for workers rights and fair wages.
The efforts of labor unions in the past to protect the well being of “voiceless workers” have resulted in
the passage of legislation which now protects the rights and safety of many workers. However, there
are still many workers both near and far who fall into the “voiceless worker” category.
I am referring to the seasonal workers who are harvesting our crops in upstate New York. These workers are playing an important role in our upstate New York economy. There are the textile workers of the world who make most of our clothes you and I wear. They are part of the work force throughout the world, including
children working in extremely unsafe conditions.
Who is there for them when it comes to just wages, a safe working environment and basic human dignity?
On this Labor Day, please take a few minutes to reflect on the work of others who support the life to
which you have been accustomed. Please consider this huge network of workers who provide the food
we eat, the clothing we wear, health care workers, firefighters, police just to mention a few, the list is
The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living it
gives us meaning and supports our economy. If the dignity of work is to be protected, then basic rights
of workers must be respected: The right to productive work, to organize and join unions, to private
property and to economic initiative.
As you enjoy this Labor Day weekend take a moment to appreciate all that you have which is a product
of another’s Labor. Especially the American worker! HAPPY LABOR DAY!