Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Let’s Hear It For All Us Working Folks

The first official celebration of Labor Day was in 1882 in New York City. There is still controversy about who actually proposed having a day in the year singled out to celebrate all working people in the country. There was one Peter McGuire, general secretary of the Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners and a co-founder of the American Federation of Labor. He is quoted as urging the day to celebrate those "who from rude nature have delved and carved all the grandeur we behold."

Some records say, however, that Matthew Maguire, a machinist, founded the holiday. He later became the secretary of Local 344 of the International Association of Machinists in Paterson, N.J., and is said to have proposed the holiday in 1882 while serving as secretary of the Central Labor Union in New York. What is clear is that the Central Labor Union adopted a Labor Day proposal and appointed a committee to plan a demonstration and picnic.

The idea caught on and soon parades and a day off work became the major vehicles for celebrating. It’s curious now, however, with so many businesses offering products and services 365 days a year, and with the ubiquity of the Internet, that many people who deserve a day off and who deserve some celebrating, work away even on Labor Day.

Work is the topic of so much discussion since most of us spend the vast percentage of our lives working, most for other people. We see in our business some of the physical effects of work. Injuries on the job, for example, change people’s lives. We worked with someone a few months ago who suffered such major back injury, she can barely walk. We helped her find the right back support as she transitioned from the molded one she had to wear for three months following the injury. The transition was scary to her. As she tried on various braces, she told us she felt like she might fall, or snap in half, so afraid was she without the stiffness of the specialized support she had been wearing. Her doctors and therapists, however, told her it was time to transition or she would become so rigid she would eventually lose all mobility. We researched dozens of types and finally she agreed to one that has since served her well. She is another one of the brave ones we meet every day who face their challenges head on, even when what they really want to do is run away and hide.

We also find that repetitive stress injuries (e.g., carpel tunnel, tennis elbow or epicondylitis) are more and more frequent as computers, personal data assistants (PDAs), cell phones and text messaging flood our lives. I heard a teenager interviewed on the radio the other day who sends 150,000 text messages a day or something like 12,000 an hour (assuming 12 hours of activity). Yipes! How on earth did we get to that point? Imagine if such behaviors continue. Future humans will have thumbs the size of Texas!

So, let’s hear it for workers this Labor Day. Celebrate…and if you are out shopping, please be sure to say thank you to those who will be working that day.

Tell us your work story. What you love about your work, what you really just don’t like. If you’re retired already, or have some alternative working path, we’d like to hear about that, too. You comments are always welcomed.

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