So, tomorrow’s Labor Day. Holla for a day off of work and a nice chance to celebrate the end of summer! But also, can you give me the history of Labor Day? I mean, if you can tell me something beyond, “It’s about labor unions and workers rights, right?” then you get gold stars. But I’d venture to guess that most people don’t know much beyond that. I honestly don’t.
Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.U.S. Department of Labor https://www.dol.gov/general/laborday/history
So, there’s that. Doesn’t honestly tell us much, but there you go.
Obviously, my chef/butcher husband is working on Labor Day. That’s our normal and I’m used to it after him being in the food service industry for so long. It’s never unheard of for him to work weekends and holidays, whatever it takes to make sure everyone else’s celebrations go off without a hitch. We’re cool with having a flexible schedule around any holiday.
What I will never be used to is the number of unkind, entitled, disrespectful fools who he encounters that treat my husband and his staff as though they’re lesser life forms. I have a real hard time knowing that my husband is working 12 hour days so that people can tell him the work he does isn’t good enough, speak to him in a demeaning tone, and complain that the offerings aren’t up to snuff for their party, and then waltz out wishing him a happy Labor Day.
I’m sure many of you reading are as incensed as I am over this sort of thing. But that’s just all in a day’s work for people in the food service industry.
Customers think that they’re allowed to speak down to staff, send food back, complain about imaginary issues, and weaponize Yelp reviews so that they get what they want. Businesses are held hostage by the expectations of customers and employees suffer.
So, what does that mean for your Labor Day? I certainly don’t mean that you shouldn’t enjoy your day off or that you should feel guilty (unless you act like an asshat to people serving you, then you sure as shit should feel guilty).
What I mean is that we have an opportunity. We can observe Labor Day as a fun day off and end it there, or we can make it a day of remembrance. Our family is going to take time today to remember and pray for all of the people we’ve know and loved in the food industry that have been lost to suicide and substance abuse. We’re going to pray for change and donate some money to a charity that promotes mental health resources and offers monetary support to food service workers. And we’re going to enjoy ribs and chicken together once my husband gets off of work.
Labor Day is a chance for you to check in with yourself. Do you see people in the service industry? Do you really, really see them? Do you treat them with respect, humanity, and dignity or do you take out your frustrations on them because they can’t talk back? Do you honor them by fighting for fair wages, health benefits, and mental health support, or do you just take for granted that your meat is cut the way you want it or you dinner can easily be dropped off on your step via Door Dash?
Obviously, this goes for other industries, too. Do you slow down in construction zones or do you have a bad attitude when you have to wait on a road that’s being repaired? Do you take time to actually engage with your cashier at the grocery store or do you micromanage how they bag your groceries? Are you as quick to give grace to the customer service rep on the phone as you are to lose patience? Do you take time to pray for the workers who harvested your food or do you waste the fruit of their labor?
There are a lot of invisible middlemen in our country, people who sacrifice their very lives so that the rest of us can live comfortably and enjoy our time. I can’t speak for every single person working in the service industry, but I can speak for the man in my house. He gets up and goes to work because he believes in the job that he’s doing. He is motivated by creating quality products that enrich lives. He wants to be a small part of your Labor Day celebration and your weeknight dinner. He shows up early and stays late because he believes in the importance of wholesome meals and family dinners. Ultimately, he’s doing his best to provide for his family just like you are yours.
That’s the goal of every industry employee we’ve ever met: to provide for their families as best they can. The job is grueling, physically and mentally draining, and thankless. So, this Labor Day, do me a favor and be a decent human? Take a minute to see and value the work that’s done to benefit you. Challenge yourself to see more and do better, to hold other shoppers accountable, to be a light in a world that so quickly undervalues folks who aren’t working the “good” jobs in the sexy roles. They’re people, too, wildly deserving of our admiration and appreciation. Even if they get our order wrong, even if they’re tired or slow, even if the service isn’t perfect. Even then, especially then, they’re valuable and deserving of grace.
Happy Labor Day, friends…you are so incredibly loved!