Labor Day Musings

Yep, it’s Labor Day here in the good ole USA, where we honor the working people who contribute so much, by giving them a day of rest. Well, we honor SOME of them, anyway. I have the day off at my “white-collar” full-time managerial position in a software company, where I get 3 weeks of vacation and insurance, plus a 401K retirement plan.

That’s today, all right. Photo by @jopanuwatd via Twenty20.

It was NOT always the case, and I will not forget it. Here’s what I said 11 years ago, before I got the job I’m in now:

I love the concept of Labor Day. But today, please remember us contract workers, folks for whom today is a forced day off, with no pay. That does not feel like a reward for our hard work. Independent contractors get no benefits, pay high self-employment taxes, and have no holiday or vacation pay. I have not had a vacation since 2006, except when laid off/between contracts. I am very grateful to have work, though.

Suna on Facebook, September 7, 2009

What that doesn’t tell you is that I hadn’t had a paid vacation in…ever. The work I did from 1995-2006 was a mix of volunteer work, contract work, and stipends for a nonprofit. (Poor pitiful me, not really; I managed to live just fine.)

Every year I make it a point to remind folks who are having parties, cooking out, boating, or relaxing in groups smaller than ten (my peeps) that not everyone has the luxury of time off. My younger son is out there delivering YOUR pizzas (if he can get into your gated community). The folks at Hearts, Homes and Hands are taking care of our clients, whose needs do not stop for holidays. Grocery and convenience stores are open to sell you beer and brats. Retailers are open for Labor Day Sales Extravaganzas.

Enjoy your sausage. Photo by @antonettescott via Twenty20.

So, not everyone gets a paid day of fun for Labor Day. Minimum-wage workers are out there earning their minimum wage, at jobs where their hours are kept just below what would legally require benefits (like paid time off). Contract workers, like me in my previous life, sit at home, hoping that the pay shortage won’t make it hard to pay rent or utility bills.

“That hippie Suna, she crazy with all that fair this and that!” Photo by @debb_a via Twenty20, not of anyone I know.

Sigh. I think something that would actually make America great would be to pay hard, honest workers a livable wage, with time off for holidays (or comp time if they choose to work holidays), and heck, maybe even parental leave when they have babies. Then I’d celebrate Labor Day with a happy heart.

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