Labor Day is more than a long weekend or end of summer

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, August 26, 2003

For many of us, Labor Day weekend often represents the gateway from summer to fall, the end of vacation and the beginning of school.

We look forward to the long, three-day weekend and usually use the time for one last summer road trip.

But most Americans may be hard pressed to explain the true significance of this day that, unlike other holidays, does not remember heroes of war or faith.

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Labor Day honors a category of Americans that includes over 95 percent of the adults in this state: workers.

The observance of Labor Day began over a century ago, when conditions for employed Americans were precarious at best.

In the late 1800s, long before computers and modern technology changed the face of the workforce, most Americans were employed in labor intensive jobs building automobiles, sewing clothing by hand, operating grain and woolen mills, hammering steel, tilling fields and building the infrastructure for a growing nation.

The work environment for men and women in those jobs was often hazardous, workdays were long and strenuous, and there was little or no assistance to injured workers in the form of leave or health benefits.

Today, Labor Day is a day set aside to give thanks for all those who worked to build this country and helped secure improved conditions of the workplace.

Whether one is a doctor, a farmer, a factory worker, a store-owner, a teacher, or even a government worker, most Ohioans have access to some form of health insurance, maternity leave, workers' compensation, and pension plan through their employers or the state.

In these uncertain economic times, we all need to be thankful for our jobs, and be mindful of those who have lost their jobs.

While we all struggle to make our way and pay our bills, the United States economy still provides the opportunity for all of us to pursue the American Dream.

We also need to give thanks this Labor Day for the many unsung heroes in our communities.

They are the people who go to work everyday to support their families and make their surroundings a better place.

They are the stay-at-home moms, the guardian grandparents, daycare workers and volunteers in the community.

They are the clergy, attorneys, and factory workers.

The medical profession and safety forces who will probably not get the day off.

They are the educators, farmers and other small businessmen who depend on their creativity and ability to be successful every day.

I personally want to thank those in the public sector whether they are local, state or federal employees.

State employees agreed not to take a raise for two years because of Ohio's budget woes.

I know many others in business and in the private sector are also working either with no raises or cuts in pay or benefits.

This Labor Day let someone know that his or her work does not go unnoticed -- whether it is a coworker, a supervisor or an assistant.

It could be your garbage worker, your dentist or your paper carrier.

It could even be your spouse or a community volunteer.

In our hearts, we should all be thankful that we live in the United States where we have the opportunity to labor in pursuit of the American Dream. It is the American people that make our economy the number one economy in the world.

Although the government does have a role to play including providing an educated workforce, a viable transportation system and national defense as well as for public health and safety, these things also take money that Americans pay for with their hard earned dollars.

Our job in the Legislature is to make sure we meet those obligations while at the same time not providing roadblocks to the citizenry to meet their economic goals.

You can rest assured that I do not take this responsibility lightly.

I will work to create and support policies that will encourage good paying jobs and allow each Ohioan to pursue their vision of the American Dream.

As we enjoy this celebration of family and community, let us remember that Labor Day is an opportunity to recognize the backbone of America, the workers who labor in the fields, factories, schools and hospitals of our nation.

These individuals comprise an interdependent community of people who work together to fuel a successful society with their products and services.

These are the people who work together to elevate this nation to a standard of living higher than any other on the planet.

On this Labor Day, let the workers rest for they have certainly earned the right.

Sen. John A. Carey Jr. represents Ohio's 17th District.