#219: It Helps To Know Why You’re Laboring on the Payroll

As we approach the annual Labor Day Weekend (in the USA), allow me to present two factoids about Labor Day (anywhere).

Factoid #1: The original Labor Day was a direct outcome of the 1894 Pullman Strike. They probably planned it as a symbolic reconciliation between workers and bosses. Yet it has not ended labor disputes. (True or false? Play it safe. Go with “maybe.”)

Factoid #2: “The holiday is rooted in the late nineteenth century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers have made to America’s strength, prosperity, and well-being.” (True or false? The quote is from the U.S. Department of Labor. So go with “true.” Or maybe not.)

But with all facts, true or false, there’s a catch, maybe even a Catch-22. Why must so many people labor so hard on trains and boats and planes (and busses and shops) to make a fun Federal holiday possible for others to celebrate the labor they are not performing?

Be warned, this piece is meant to irritate you on Labor Day (in the USA and maybe elsewhere with the “u” laboured back into labor).

What does the word labor mean? To many of us it means work, as in “I labored to write this piece of nonsense.” However, labor actually means hard work. For example, I labored (really hard) to get this piece of nonsense written.

A subtle difference. Yet it is a meaningful difference.

Many of us are quick to complain that companies and managers view employees as costs and not as assets. Managers appear more comfortable reducing labor costs than they are with investing in labor. And, based on how some people behave at work, who can blame them?

Consider your own behavior at work, honestly and objectively. How do you labor at work, as an expense or as an asset? (I could ask, “Do u put the u in labour?” But that would be too corny.)

Here comes the irritating bit. At least once a year we should all answer this question: Why, exactly, am I on the payroll?

Welcome to my side of the nonsense divide