From Wikipedia:

Beginning in the late 19th century, as the trade union and labor movements grew, trade unionists proposed that a day be set aside to celebrate labor. “Labor Day” was promoted by the Central Labor Union and the Knights of Labor, which organized the first parade in New York City. In 1887, Oregon was the first state of the United States to make it an official public holiday. By the time it became an official federal holiday in 1894, thirty U.S. states officially celebrated Labor Day.

 Other than service industries, such as fire, police, and hospitals, I’ve often wondered why people have been forced to work on Labor Day. The obvious answer can be found inside the original intent; to celebrate labor as seen through the eyes of a labor union. In 2017 those who belong to a labor union or a company that acknowledges the national holiday get the day off, but those who are non-union or work in various service industries are on the job.

There are two issues at play. One is from the cry of the laborer, that companies refuse to honor Labor Day because it’s a three day weekend, and people will automatically go shopping especially if there’s a holiday sale or demand other goods or services. This is false.

The second issue has to do with the notion of Sabbath. World renowned thinker Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote, “The Sabbath is the day on which we learn the art of surpassing civilization.” (The Sabbath: Its Meaning for Modern Man)

 Though Labor Day is a secular holiday, the fact that many people are given the day off to rest from their labor holds a parallel meaning contained within classic Judaism. The word “Shabbat” comes from the root Shin-Beit-Tav, meaning to cease, to end, or to rest. Within Judaism one day of the week people, land, animals, slaves….all workers are given the day off to rest.

There is something wrong with the notion that on a day when the country celebrates those who labor and toil, some are forced to labor and toil. In this regard, we are given a very simple and plain example of a systemic imbalance within society where some are lucky, and some are not. Why should a national holiday be lucky for some and not the other?

Labor Day should be a holiday where we celebrate those who labor with the joy, and the opportunity to take a day off with pay, for companies to show their gratitude for individuals who help a company grow, and survive, a day for businesses to acknowledge simple, and heartfelt gratitude. Is that so difficult?