Today we celebrate Labor Day. This holiday does not mark the end of summer (the meteorological end comes on September 21st). It is not the annual parental celebration of the return of children to school, although there may indeed be many who are happy to see their kids back into their academic routine. Labor Day is the celebration of the social and economic achievements of American workers.
The first Labor Day holiday was celebrated on September 5, 1882, in New York City, and established in 1894 as a national holiday. What many may not recall is that Labor Day was enacted, in part, to calm the political unrest that followed the Country’s most serious and violent labor disputes. This unsettled period marked the rise of organized labor, and spawned many of the laws that today govern working conditions and worker rights in the United States. It also defined the working environment norm that is based on an overwhelming majority of permanent employees working a 40-hour week.
Things have changed over the past 120 years! Just as the shift from an agrarian to an industrial economy caused us to redefine what it means to work in America, recent economic and technological trends are driving another redefinition. Most industry analysts estimate the number of positions held by contingent workers (i.e., contractors, consultants, freelancers) to be between one-fourth to one-third of today’s total workforce and predict that the number could be as high as one-half by 2020.
Old questions need to be re-examined.
At the end of the nineteenth century, many of these questions were answered through worker strikes and violent clashes between employers, government and organized labor. Today, efforts must be undertaken to proactively address these issues.
Please share with us your views on steps that should be taken to prepare politically, economically and socially for this workforce trend.
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