Dear Prof. Chomsky,
It’s Labor Day weekend and I’m looking forward to a hard-earned day off. I can feel the excitement building with my co-workers and community as well. Questions and comments like, “What are you doing for Labor Day?”, “Enjoy your long weekend!” and “Can you believe we get Monday off?!” are common. Actually, I’ve been too busy to make plans so I just smile and say, “I don’t know, are you doing anything fun?”, “Thank you, have a good one.” or “I know, it’s great!”
My mother hand-delivered a freshly baked “Labor Day Cobbler” to my place of business. It was very delicious and an incredibly kind gesture. She, like most of us doesn’t consider the externalities of her actions, namely the surge in afternoon drop-ins and the extra mass on my midsection. The kind remarks continued, “This is so delicious!”, “Your mother can really bake!”, “Can I get the recipe?” and “Your mom is a pro!” All of these comments, except maybe the last which, I don’t know if I should take offense to, were very nice. But my attention was concentrated on completing my deadlines before the end of the eight-hour work day.
In today’s work environment, a day off doesn’t mean less work, it means less time to do it. The rule is, you arrive at eight and leave no later than five, a rule I break habitually for spiritual contentment. Unfortunately, to my knowledge, there is no rule or limit on the amount of work an employee is expected to do in a work day. So I go on working unsustainably, receiving two emails for every email I send and gaining two tasks for each one I complete, all while attempting to manage my time, energy and focus in-between constant reporting and unnecessary meetings. You wouldn’t believe how many different techniques I’ve tried to compete in these conditions, Pareto’s Principle, Parkinson’s Law, auto responders and therapy to name a few.
After my colleagues and I indulged on my mother’s rich and tasty show of support to the workers and I complete enough tasks to protect my position in the corporate entity, at least until next Tuesday, my thoughts move to the origins of Labor Day. How and why was it created, who struggled for it and what hardships did they endure?
It was a surprise to learn, being a product of the Texas Public Education System and a guinea pigs for standardized testing, that the first Labor Day was observed by the Central Labor Union (CLU) of New York on September 5, 1882 and became a federal holiday in 1894, six days after the deaths of two protesters by the U.S. military during the Pullman Strike when workers in a company town protested low wages, long hours and the high price of rent and goods. Company town, is that like Celebration, Florida?
The CLU date was chosen by Pres. Cleveland over International Workers’ Day in a seemingly successful effort to prevent negative emotions tied to the Haymarket Affairs in Chicago. I’ve never celebrated International Workers’ Day, am I getting cheated out of another day off?
I hope you enjoy your long weekend. I’ll try to remember that the rights we enjoy were won by the people and not granted to the people.
Ps. I’ve included my mother’s cobbler recipe.
Labor Day Cobbler
1 can crushed pineapple with juice
1 can cherry pie filling
1 stick butter
1 yellow cake mix
1 cup chopped pecans
Spray 9×13 pan, dump pineapple and cherry filling into pan, mix together, spread dry cake mix evenly over top of filling, sprinkle pecans over top, put butter slices over the top, do not mix.
Bake 350 for 45-50 min.
“Labor Unions are the leading force for democratization and progress.”
– Noam Chomsky
Prof. Chomsky speaks about Labor Movements
Books by Prof. Noam Chomsky
Hopes and Prospects by Noam Chomsky
The Essential Chomsky (New Press Essential) by Noam Chomsky
Audio by Prof. Noam Chomsky
US Repression I: Smashing Labor mp3
CLASS WAR: The Attack on Working People
Books by other authors
There is Power in a Union: The Epic Story of Labor in America by Philip Dray
Jobs with Justice
American Rights at Work
How to support workers’ rights