Many people around Alaska and the country will enjoy a day off from work today, but the observance of Labor Day comes at an uncertain time for the American workforce.
Labor Day has its origins in the New York City labor movement of the 1880s and was made a federal holiday in 1894. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the first proposal for the holiday suggested a parade to exhibit "the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations" followed by a festival for workers and their families.
In Alaska, we've been largely spared from the brunt of the economic recession, but even here, the "esprit de corps" -- morale, if you will -- of the workforce certainly has been tested as employers in public and private sectors have had to ask their employees to do more with less.
The national economy has been on a roller coast. Even on the Peninsula, we've been buoyed by renewed interest in Cook Inlet oil and gas development but seen other businesses close their doors.
Whether the economy is on the right track or we're headed back into recession, it's an especially apropos moment to appreciate the American workforce. It is, after all, us -- our friends, neighbors and ourselves, all of us who make the economy go.
It's also a good time to think about ways to support our local workforce, like buying local whenever possible to keep those dollars circulating close to home.
And as long as were in the middle of political campaigning season -- the borough election is just four weeks away -- be sure to ask the candidates what plans they have to stimulate economic growth, and how those plans are balanced with other community values, such as sustainability. Ask how they'll be able to implement those plans. These are hard questions, and we should insist on detailed, concrete answers rather than vague, pie-in-the-sky promises.
And by all means, enjoy the day off from work and the hot dogs, burgers, fresh salmon, and whatever else you've got for the grill. You've earned it.
In short: While enjoying the day off, think about ways to support our local workforce -- and eat up!