Labor Day means more than a day off


graphic by Shalynn Long

Labor Day is an annual holiday, where most get the day off. Others work, to serve their communities.

For many Americans, Labor Day weekend is full of fun activities. Many go camping, fishing, on vacation, see their relatives or stay and relax at home. Labor Day is a day to celebrate and, for most people, that means getting to spend the day away from work on the first Monday of September.
When Labor Day weekend comes around, most people may associate it with a three-day weekend without even realizing what Labor Day weekend really entails.
“Labor Day, when it was created, was to celebrate the role of workers in the creation of the economy and society,” said Kerry Wynn, history professor and director of the University Honors program. ”It was something labor leaders advocated for, and they also advocated for improvement to conditions of labor.”
Labor Day began in the late nineteenth century due to a push by labor workers demanding a celebration of workers’ America. Although many laws have been put in place to improve working conditions of laborers, there are still problems today that have originated from the late nineteenth century.
“What the labor leaders were arguing for in the late 1890s, we still don’t have all of those protections for all American workers today at all,” said Wynn. “We have a holiday to celebrate what workers have contributed to the United States and many people enjoy having that day off, but the underlying problems that workers faced in the 1890s, we still are facing a lot of those problems – particularly in service industries.”
The central idea of Labor Day is to get the day off and celebrate the work that Americans do. Although, not everyone is lucky enough to celebrate this holiday. Many front-line workers do not get the pleasure of getting the day off due to the demands of their job.
“Anyone that chooses to be a first responder, they know that they will have to work some holidays so they have to plan around that. The nice thing is that most places will allow an increase in pay,” said Chris Enos, chief of the Washburn University Police Department. “It’s always mission critical and important to be there and respond to your emergencies.”
Workers in the front line job industry, like Enos, understand that it is important to be available for people no matter what day it is. While Enos may not get Labor Day off from work, he still values the holiday itself.
“It’s important to recognize people who are out here everyday doing work, especially when they’re working nights and weekends and holidays,“ Enos said. “When you’re in bed, they’re here working all the time so I think that’s important to recognize.”
As many enjoy their extra day off from work, the major idea behind Labor Day is significantly tied to unionized workers back in the late nineteenth century that demanded labor rights. As Americans celebrate this weekend, they should keep in mind the ways to stay safe.
“Three-day weekend’s traffic fatalities unfortunately go up even if they are not alcohol related, so wear your seatbelt and pay attention,” said Enos. “Being aware of your safety and always having sober people around you if you plan to drink is always a good tactic to keep safe for this holiday weekend.”

Edited by: Alijah McCracken, Justin Shepard