It’s Labour Day! Should it be?

For many of us, Labour Day means the end of summer, the return to school and back to disciplined routines. But there is a much deeper history to this day.

The origins can be traced back to the 1870s when labour organizations began demonstrating for worker’s rights. At the time the need to defend and protect workers was greatly required however with over 150 years of economic and employment change and governance under our belts there is a discussion afoot as to the modern day need/relevance for Labour Day.

There is a movement to change Labour Day to Entrepreneur’s Day. The thinking is that Entrepreneurs always have been and always will be the economic catalysts for growth and development and they need to be recognized and celebrated. Proponents of “Entrepreneurs’ Day” however suggest why create another day, why not just rename Labour Day.

Being an entrepreneur I find the conversation interesting and comical.

Interesting because what is true now, was also true in the 1870s – entrepreneurs are the catalyst for business growth and development – pretty much every company was started by someone. Labour Day was created to remind entrepreneurs to be mindful of their workforce – to be respectful. It was created at a time when there was no respect. Workers worked endless hours in pour conditions for pitiful wages. Very thankfully we have come a long way since the 1870s.

Henry Ford was perhaps the greatest example of revolutionizing how labour forces were managed. Upon review of his own organization he established the 40 hour work week so people could rest and renew. He also increased wages and looked at the overall quality of life of his employees. While on the one hand he wanted his own labour force to be able to afford to drive a Ford on the other hand, he also knew that the success of his organization was intrinsically linked to the success of his employees. And his thinking clearly worked – note, the Ford Motor Company is still standing strong today.

I think the initial rational for Labour Day was to make a point to the world that workers deserve and need to be treated respectfully. Unfortunately not all leaders and entrepreneurs were respectful, not all saw the bigger picture like Ford, so something needed to be done – hence Labour Day. Sometimes to create change and to heighten awareness we need to make an aggressive statement. In the 1870s this statement was Labour Day.

Thankfully labour issues have evolved significantly since the 1870s. The present day discussion is very focused on inclusion and diversity. This is a very “labour” based discussion – still relevant and still necessary. So, in my mind Labour Day remains important because it forces us to check in on how labour is managed.

I noted above that I also find the whole discussion on renaming Labour Day comical…I do. Seriously? Do we need yet another day to celebrate or pat people on the back. There are 365 days in the year and many are getting noted for this or that. A couple of weeks ago there was a banana day – are you kidding me? I’m in marketing, I get it – we need a way to break through the noise and gain attention but there is a breaking point. Before I go off on that tangent let me close with this.

Sometimes I think we just need to let things be.

Presently, in North America, Labour Day more than anything marks a return to “discipline”.  Akin to Jan 1, Labour Day is the second key marker in the year for reassessing and setting goals. May 24 switches our brains into summer mode and Labour Day reminds us to ‘get back to work’! Rather ironic.

I don’t think we need to rename Labour Day. I don’t think we need an Entrepreneur’s Day. I think we need to live everyday mindfully and respectfully.

Enjoy your day!