The Meaning of Labor Day

Not a vacation day, but a display of vocation.

A day to safeguard workers and sanctify the nature of work, where the ability to do—the willingness to work—is more than an attempt to make ends meet but a means to an end: to climb the ladder, be it actual or analogous, where each rung is a milestone, each milestone remunerative, each reward proof of the promise of American life; that mobility is real, that opportunity—the chance to realize the dream of democracy—is the right of all Americans.

Whether we choose to form a union, or unionize against joining one, is our right.

We reserve this day, Labor Day, to remember that no man has the right to deny—no boss has a writ to withhold—those rights that predate the effort to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.

The American worker is the best symbol of justice and tranquility, not because he is better than his fellow citizens, but because he is the most visible sign of the truth of what America says on paper. 

We need only look at a workingman’s hands to measure our devotion to the Rights of Man

If his hands bear the scars of injury, if he bares his hands to reveal his disfigurement, if his hands tremble because work offers him neither freedom from want nor freedom from fear, if his hands look like the hands of most workers, if his hands are too weak to work well, but well enough to make a fist—to raise a fist, in outrage, about outrageous working conditions—we will suffer for his wounds.

If we lack the diligence to rule justly, we will find ourselves forced to work for the most unjust ruler.

To keep our republic, we would be wise to keep in mind the words of a King: “Let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.

About Bill Asher

Bill Asher is a writer and retired executive. He lives with his family in Massachusetts.

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

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