Labor Day, unofficial last day of summer is celebrated in Colorado in much the same way that Memorial Day (first unofficial day of summer) is celebrated. Cookouts, camping, concerts and festivals abound in the Mile High City, and all across the state. Also much like Memorial Day, Labor Day’s origins are rather more dark than modern day celebrations would indicate.
The idea to celebrate the American “working man” was no idle thought, but rather the result of riots and protests sweeping the country for more than a decade. Working conditions and labor expectations in the emerging industrial sector had become so bad that people began to unionize in an attempt to fight for their safety and welfare. Unrest continued to grow until, in the midst of a nationwide railroad strike that virtually halted rail traffic, Congress realized that action must be taken to heal the ever-widening rift between the upper classes and the working class. Following the example of several states, Congress passed an Act in 1894 which legalized the first Monday of September as a national holiday in recognition of the nation’s labor class.
Despite this move, it was another 44 years before the Fair Labor Standards Act, or FLSA, was passed. The FLSA was designed to address many of the grievances workers had been struggling under, including child labor, unsafe working conditions, unfair pay, and unreasonable expectations of work hours. While the FLSA has proven predominantly successful in addressing child labor and unsafe working conditions, it has never quite managed to appropriately address the issue of unfair pay, as the Federal Minimum wage has always been at or below the national poverty line. Currently, inflation and the rising cost of living have outpaced the current Federal minimum to such an extent that no citizen earning minimum wage can afford basic, modest housing working fewer than 80 hours a week. This is double the 40-hour work week the FLSA sought to implemented.
Unfortunately, attempts to standardize a 40-hour work week have also proven insufficient for the modern American. The average full time American worker instead puts in 47 hours a week at their job, with almost 40% of them putting in 50 hours a week or more. Even factoring in part time workers, Americans work more hours per week than any of the world’s other top economic countries, yet have the least paid time off. Reports detailing worker productivity show that workers continue to drive themselves harder than ever as productivity has grown non-stop over the past 70 years, yet employee compensation has remained all but stagnant for the past 40 years while the cost of living continues to rise.
So this Labor Day, as you relax and enjoy our beautiful state in whatever way brings you joy, don’t forget to also celebrate not only the dedication and perseverance of the modern working person, but the continual efforts we as a country keep striving for on their behalf. All of those who work and support our country’s economy deserve respect and fair treatment.
And don’t forget, Gourmet to Go will close at 3:00 pm on Friday, September 2nd, and remain closed through Labor Day, Monday, September 5th, so that our employees may relax and enjoy the holiday as well!