It's a day for visiting family and friends, grilling burgers and drinking beer. It's the unofficial end of summer and start of football season. It's a time for weekend road trips, afternoons at the beach and better retail discounts than Black Friday. What Labor Day is often not -- but what it always should be -- is a day we think about working-class men and women, who don't always get invited to their own party.
Labor Day is supposed to be their holiday, after all. Labor unions organized the first such celebration in New York City in 1882, pushing for it to become a national holiday in 1894. And they fought for the five-day workweek, eight-hour workday and minimum wage that we often take for granted. Yet many workers are excluded from this national day of rest. Low-wage earners will be serving vacationers their entrees and pouring their beer. They'll help bargain-hunters navigate Labor Day sales.
Long Island's 6.2 percent unemployment rate in July sat below the nation's 7.4 percent clip. But the lion's share of both local and national job growth this year has reflected new hires in the low-paying service industries. In both economies, high-wage job growth has not kept pace, though the Island did see an uptick in hiring in the professional and business services sector in July.
That news is cause for cautious optimism. But as we've all learned since the Great Recession, it's tough to buck the low-wage trend. And with the shopping, dining and tourism that come with it, Labor Day for many working-class folks isn't so much a celebration of their past triumphs as it is just another work day.
Though it's seen a modest pickup over the past six months, the economy is still sputtering. The wound inflicted by the recession still festers. That's all the more painful for men and women reporting to work Monday as cashiers, bartenders, line cooks, stockers, waiters and more. They'll have to rest another day, just not on their day.