[Originally published Labor Day, 2006 and I haven't changed my mind...]
As the proud son of a former Southern Railway Carmen's union member and as a lawyer for represented that labor union that was very beneficial to the railroad employees, I submit a strong argument can be made that Labor Day is the least supportable federal holiday and should be abolished.
The origins of Labor Day date back to the unique circumstances arising from the industrial revolution transition from an agrarian society and the labor union movement primarily in New York City and other large Northern cities in the 1880's.
The movement was essentially an exercise of freedom by workers for large corporations to band together to maximize their economic clout. Most of the reforms obtained by the labor movement have been enacted into law that applies to all workers, and have since the Hoover Administration agreed to sweeping legislation that forever assured workers of their inalienable rights of association in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Labor unions, while disappointed that they have been unable to achieve nationwide "union shop" laws that would force workers to join a union in companies in which a majority of workers vote to establish a union, essentially compete for members in a free market system.
Their membership as a percentage of the work force has steadily declined over the years essentially due to their success in having workplace conditions mandated for all companies, the general American tendency towards independence, and the declining industrial base for unskilled workers.
I would contend that the conditions that brought about the creation of the holiday have long since ceased to exist and that it was rather specialized reason for a holiday to begin with.
I would also contend that the celebration of "work" per se is an illegitimate concept in many ways. Work, unlike the activities that are the progenitors for our other holidays, is not an option. Christ did not have to be born in a manger; Columbus didn't have to sail in 1492; the Pilgrims didn't have to come to America seeking freedom; our forefathers didn't have to declare independence for Britain; and Americans didn't have to defend America with their blood.
Everyone, with few exceptions, has to work to live.
Moreover, the holiday is used by many to divide Americans along class lines with appeals to the deadly sin of envy. Many seek to demonize the achievers that produce wealth by taking risks to pursue the American dream and who provide jobs for other Americans and to exalt those that take those jobs as somehow being more worthy of celebration, even with a holiday, as if those that work hard to found businesses have not worked. Its especially ugly when the sons and daughters of the founders of businesses are demonized as if those that are doing the demonizing don't bless their own children.
One of the main reasons for the greatness of America is that Americans are entitled to the fruits of their labor. That fact is the reason Americans take risks in the first place.
Many Americans don't realize that but for the expectation that one will get to keep the riches that flow from successful business ventures, the successful businesses would not exist and the workers they deem exploited wouldn't have a job. Instead they simply see the successful businesses as a given, wallow in envy and seek to pass laws to force business owners to spend the profits of the business in ways they deem "just."
We have seen the result of that kind of Marxist-Socialist thinking is spades in the former Soviet Union and we see lesser examples in nations we vastly out-perform today in Europe and all around the world.
Envy is evil, and we must never let it be the basis for government policy. Greed is also evil, but unless one's greed causes one to cross the line and steal, government policy must not seek to enforce some sort of justice in that regard as well. One of the miracles of America is how its free market system channels greed, much in the way that God envisioned in the beginning. One must satisfy the desires of a buyer if one wishes to sell him something.
Liberals need to see the real world as it is and see that the results of America's free enterprise system are the most compassionate in history. They must stop imagining a utopia where everyone "does the right thing" at government mandate. Again, see USSR.
And one must realize that profit is essential for a business to continue.
I contend that to celebrate "labor" is illegitimate. It is akin to a celebration of eating.
Labor Day should be abolished.
"One man with courage makes a majority." - Andrew Jackson