Days of Change

Labor or Career?

September 7, 2015
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Labor Day is a version of the International Workers’ Day celebrated by much of the world. It celebrates the labor movement, something that favors collectivism over individual rights. Many traditional 9 to 5 employees and union jobs get the day off. For the US, it serves as the last long weekend of summer for workers.

The nature of work has changed over the centuries, especially in the century since the modern labor movement. In our farming past, you worked as hard as you needed to get the things you needed. You might have had a business supplying things that people couldn’t get or make on their own. Then there were employees, people who were paid directly for their efforts with less interest in the general welfare of the owner or business.

In the days of factories, people became low and high skilled workers. They were often expected to be at work every day for all their hours with no excuses. They were often laborers, lifting, pushing, pulling and building the materials in the factory. The relationship was impersonal, with policies and rules that didn’t account for the needs of the employee.

In the early 20th century, labor laws forced employers to follow government rules and regulations. The relationship was still impersonal and started to pit unions against businesses. The much vaunted “middle class” grew from the booming industry of the middle of the century rather than the employment laws. The evidence can be seen in the near death of private sector unions in the 70’s and 80’s when the economy and competition was less favorable.

In the US, people have more of an opportunity than ever to have a career. If you can’t do a job you love, you have a better chance of doing a job you like or are good enough to not struggle. The downside is that work is more elusive than ever in the US. That’s one thing labor unions have never been good at, putting people to work.


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