And by that I mean an appreciation for labor, both the organized and the casual kind. It's become fashionable to ignore the accomplishments of the Labor Movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but every single working adult today owes those brave men and women a tremendous debt. They put their lives on the line to guarantee themselves and their descendants a better life.
The Andrew Carnegies and Henry Clay Fricks of the world left a great legacy and they accomplished great things. However, it was their immigrant labor force and their refusal to be treated like slaves any longer that left a more lasting and widespread mark on our culture. Labor Day was intended to be a day to commemorate those same, unionized workers. This link, from the US Department of Labor, gives a brief explanation of why today is a US holiday.
The American Labor movement has been controversial since its violent birth well over a century ago. The last 30 years of American politics and economic practice have done a thorough job of demonizing organized labor and its history, but it's a lie. It's a campaign of lies actually and it's been unrelenting. But at the end of the day, Exxon and IBM did not come up with the five-day, 40-hour work week out of the goodness of their hearts. Just about every idea you have and I have about work and life balance came about at the insistence of organized labor. Despite what you might think of the AFL-CIO or the UAW, you're still standing on their shoulders. History works like that.
There was some great literature that came out of that era. If you've never read Upton Sinclair's The Jungle, or Jacob Riis' How the Other Half Lives, pick up a copy of either. Or both.
Better yet, pick up a copy of Paul Krause's The Battle for Homestead, 1880-1892. You'll never look at your work life the same way again.
I'll put away my Norma Rae routine for now. I'm seeing clients today, so there's no rest for this American laborer. Whatever you're doing today, I hope it's fun.