Labor Day: Honoring Skill, Vigilance and Efficiency

For many of us Labor Day on our calendars likely only means a demarcation between summer and the return to school classrooms. In a few towns and cities there may be rallies or parades to celebrate the national holiday, established as a means of honoring workers with a “paid” day off … a deserved honor for worker skill, vigilance and efficiency!
We’ve come a long way on the “labor” front since the workplace abuses of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It’s interesting that the titans of industry in those days … Carnegie ( steel ), J.P. Morgan ( finance, steel ), Rockefeller (oil ) and Vanderbilt ( railroads ) … created great personal wealth at the expense of workers. Hence the label “robber barons”.
fab23159ad866570f054d50c2f67c325Labor Day was the US government’s gesture to honor workers … largely immigrant … who had endured decades of long hours and poor working conditions … a common workweek in the auto plants and steel mills was a 12-hour day days, six days a week. Child labor (ages 5- 6 and up) existed as well. Those conditions prompted the start of protests by workers in these industries, oftentimes resulting in law enforcement and federal troop intervention, many times resulting in the loss of life on both sides.
Today, most industry titans are more committed to workplace excellence environments. They must, in fact, because in our knowledge economy of today, with the benefit of technology and Internet, workers are more mobile. They are free to choose to relocate. Job opportunities are not defined by industry type, rather by transferable skills. Titans of today ( Bezos, Page, Kelleher, Ellison ) while creating personal wealth, are more inclined to sharing the proceeds with employees. Still, I wonder if history will look back on the 21st century and the way we value immigrant labor as less than the best we could do. 220px-construction_workersPerhaps our government will see both the value of their contributions and their rightful place in society to erase their illegal stature.
From my perspective, for business today, we could do more to honor labor that continues to build and maintain this country and our way of life. I am in awe of workers who do the difficult jobs that require skill, vigilance and efficiency … in other words … excellence. I’m thinking of the difficult work that truck drivers, maintenance personnel, construction craft workers, oil and petrochemical operators, for example, perform every day. Their work is inspiring to me and I’m always honored when customers ask me to help them pay tribute to skill, vigilance and efficiency. Workers who perform those tasks deserve honor.

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