Heartbreaks that begets Labor Day
After the Civil War ended, expansion began. This building out of the west required oil, coal, steel, wood, the products that were made from these materials, and a way to get these products to where they were needed, which was rail. During this time, some of the great fortunes of the 19th and early 20th century were made, with names such as Vanderbilt in rail, Carnegie in steel, Rockefeller in coal, and JP financing the operations. Other notable names: Yerkes, Stanford, Gould, Mellon, Harriman, Pullman, Frick, Field, Duke, McCormick and Astor. These names owned the enterprises that built the country, and provided its goods and services.
During this time in history, a typical workweek was a twelve-hour day, seven days a week. There were few laws prohibiting child labor, so child labor was common, and in too many cases, there was a disregard for the physical safety of employees. Immigration from Ireland, Italy, China, and many other countries provided a ready supply of cheap labor, downgrading work conditions even further. The inhumane factors and danger at the work place made unions attractive to employees, which made them very popular and eventually, the power of the unions became dangerous to big businesses.
Fights broke out, ranging from social retaliation through protests and boycotts, to legal retaliations with legislation and lawsuits. Politicians, irritated journalists, lawyers, and influencers began taking sides and confrontation became more and more violent, sometimes even fatal. As the recognition of employees as individuals grew, cities and states began setting aside the first Monday of September as a holiday for the “workingman.” Congress formalized it as a national holiday in 1894.
Most of us see Labor Day as the end of summer and an opportunity for some R&R. However, do we truly understand the concept of work? We firmly believe that each of us has been created to be productive, to be fruitful, and to multiply. This means using all we have been given in a way that makes a positive difference. The questions we study are “How do we utilize our time, treasure and talent in a manner that maximizes the return to ourselves and others?” And, “Since we are built and designed to work, how to pursue work with excellence, without having work become our identity?” We continue to learn, and will let you know what we find.
There is nothing in history, outside the last 150 or so years, that suggests retirement as we have come to understand it in America. Seems to us that retirement as its presented in America is more the creation of Wall Street and Del Webb, than it is anything else. Our call as individuals is to continually engage. While our roles may change, the opportunity of our lives is to continue to be productive, and to utilize our time, talent, and treasure, in ways that matter.