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Labor Day–Revolution to Resolution

September 4, 2009

Labor Day: end of summer, back yard barbeques, back to school sales, crisp Fall weather, holiday weekend, 4 day work week, 8 hour work day. Wait—8 hour work day? Yes, Labor Day dates to 18…with worldwide protests to legally institutionalize the 8 hour work day.  I don’t know about you, but I imagine the leisurely days I work only 8 hours as how retirement must feel. In our post-modern, instant media age, the work pings late into the night, and early morning; as Americans take the honors for more hours worked in more weeks per year than any other country. But it’s not simply that we are Puritan  workaholics, or alternately that the Dionysian French (who work 28% fewer hours) are hedonists, sipping wine in the vineyards of Provence, opting for joie de vivre over money. No, it’s an artifact of our labor unions. Labor unions in Europe in the 1970’s were more powerful than in the U.S., and bargained for what they could get—job protection and a reduced work week.  While in the U.S. we got more hours on the job and more money, but less time.

So roll up your sleeves, and celebrate the true meaning of Labor Day. Do something new– treat yourself to the pursuit of fun.  And when Tuesday rolls around, start your own revolution and resolve to quit work at a reasonable hour, turn off your crackberry, pretend you’re French, and enjoy some leisure.

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