The Meaning of Labor Day

When many of us in the HR world think of Labor Day, we now think of the NLRB.  For most of us, I would not say the visceral thoughts are warm and with admiration.

So, for Labor Day, let’s not think of the National Labor Relations Board.   Let’s think of its purpose.

Labor Day has its origins in the labor movement. In 1894, Grover Cleveland made Labor Day a federal holiday after a failed attempt to break up a railroad strike.  However, its purpose, I believe, is to pay tribute to the contributions and accomplishments of all American workers.

Some in the union movement see it as a day to focus on unionized workers.  I prefer not to exclude more than 93% of private sector workers for recognition.

We should be acknowledging the work of all workers, union and non-union alike.  While I personally believe, at this time in history, employees are usually better off without the costs and risks of unionization, our union employees deserve our respect and appreciation, too.

Please allow me to side track for a moment.  Take Mother's Day.  It is a day to recognize our moms, those blessed to have them.  It does not mean we can treat them poorly or with indifference the rest of the year.  A Hallmark card does not cure all.

The same is true with Labor Day and other employee recognition days.  They are important but only if consistent with how we treat employees throughout the year.

I have heard a few leaders say employees should feel lucky to have a job in today’s economic climate.  Employers who believe that and act consistent with it often earn they union they get.

I believe we are lucky to have so many hard working employees who are doing more and more, working harder and harder. 

Today, I thank them.  Please do the same.


This article is not legal advice and should not be construed as applying to specific factual situations.


Follow me on Twitter at:  @Jonathan_HR_Law.



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