Labor Day comes at a moment of transition. Summer turns to fall, at least unofficially, children get ready to head back to school, pumpkin spice already is being offered at the local coffee shop.
But many of this nation’s workers honored each Labor Day are enduring transitions that are sometimes far more difficult, painful and long-lasting. Technology shifts the work they do as automation replaces some jobs and changes others. Farmers face the impact of an ongoing trade war with China. Auto workers see layoffs at some of their largest employers. Immigrant workers who care for children and cut lawns worry about themselves and their families, with fears of deportation or further tightening of regulations for those here legally or illegally.
And the essence of Labor Day’s history — the power of unionized labor — has shifted, too. As of last year, just 10.5 percent of workers nationwide belonged to unions.
More broadly, workers worry about the potential for slowdowns in job growth or even a recession, about the stock market, about their ability to provide for their families or about whether they’ll be able to retire.
In these transitions, it’s essential to recognize the importance of the workers who make this nation what it is, and to take care of them and see them through these intense adjustments. That means providing retraining when a career shift is necessary or tasks change, focusing on wage growth and wage parity between men and women, and addressing the powerful ramifications of global policy shifts in terms of trade, tariffs and more.
Beyond that, it means taking time on this Labor Day to say thank you — to the construction worker fixing a pothole, to the doctors and nurses working in emergency rooms, to the police officers and firefighters keeping us safe, to the restaurant worker serving lunch, to those at the supermarket helping you with burger fixings for this evening’s barbecue, and to the barista serving your first pumpkin spice latte of the season.
It may be their day — but they’re not resting, and many are not celebrating. So take a moment and celebrate them. — The editorial board