Of all the years to celebrate the true meaning of Labor Day, certainly this year has given us many reasons.
Research from the Bureau of Labor Statistics reveals that employment in 2019 is running at an all-time high, with a remarkable 132 million people in the workforce. That figure includes record employment numbers for minorities and women. Manufacturing is seeing a revival in this country. And with unemployment hovering around 3.7 percent, Labor Day should have plenty of revelers.
Let’s start with a little history. The first Labor Day was celebrated on Sept. 5, 1882, when 10,000 workers marched in New York City from City Hall to Union Square. Bear in mind, this event occurred in the era of 12-hour workdays, seven-day-a-week schedules, child labor and dismal working conditions.
Oregon was the first state to make Labor Day a legal holiday in 1887, followed by a string of other states. Recognizing the significance of the movement, Congress passed an act in 1894 making the first Monday in September a legal holiday throughout the country.
Fast forward to today, and think about how times have changed. Forty-hour workweeks, strict safety enforcement, benefits including paid vacations and health insurance, unfilled jobs and opportunities in so many fields -- those are reasons to celebrate.
“American workers are collectively the most productive in the world,” says Robert Dilenschneider, founder and chairman of the Dilenschneider Group and former president and CEO of Hill and Knowlton. “It is this drive and determination that helps make our nation the greatest on Earth. We should be proud of this fact and do whatever we can to keep this great spirit alive.”
I completely agree with Bob. As we built and grew MackayMitchell Envelope Company from its stumbling infancy to today, we’ve always tried to focus on the people who keep our doors open. We’ve had our share of challenges in the envelope manufacturing business -- starting with fax machines and email, and progressing to direct billing, electronic ticketing and a dozen other internet product replacements.
Our employees have stuck with us through some lean days and helped find ways to trim costs and innovate processes and products. They share our successes as well. I would be willing to wager that most businesses and organizations would echo my sentiments. Without a reliable and dedicated workforce, their operations are down the tubes.
I think it is tremendously important that workers have the support of their employers, but it's equally important that they demonstrate the drive to make an impact in their workplaces. I am especially fond of Will Rogers’ thoughts on work: “In order to succeed, you must know what you are doing, like what you are doing and believe in what you are doing.”
“Know what you are doing” is central to success in any venture. Yes, we often learn as we go, but having and maintaining essential skills is a requirement. Winners prepare, train, study, apply themselves and keep working to become the best at what they do. It’s the American way!
“Like what you are doing” can present some challenges. I’m always surprised how many people will tell you that they hate their jobs, but do nothing about it. Some jobs are truly dreadful, to be sure. But attitude also plays a significant role. Let me share something: The secret to happiness, success, satisfaction and fulfillment is not in doing what you like. It’s liking what you do.
“Believe in what you are doing” is a little harder to define for those who struggle through the workday just for a paycheck. The most successful people I know are not in a job -- any job -- for something to do. They are in their work to do something. This is the labor force that any employer dreams about.
Years ago, I found a poem by Art Linkletter, the humorist and radio and television host, that described what it takes to turn good into better, boredom into stimulation and discontent into commitment:
Do a little more than you’re paid to;
Give a little more than you have to;
Try a little harder than you want to;
Aim a little higher than you think possible;
And give a lot of thanks to God for health, family and friends.
Happy Labor Day to all!