As many students on GC’s campus are painfully aware, this past Monday was Labor Day. While public schools and many colleges and universities had a day off, Goshen College classes remained in session.
I don’t think it would be wrong to say that there was a general mood of dissatisfaction from the student population on Monday. And yes, while it makes a great joke to point out that we are laboring on Labor day, it’s possible that we’re missing the point.
Labor Day was initially created as a federal holiday to celebrate the contributions that the labor movement and the workers who were a part of it made to the United States. The formation of trade unions went a long way to create economic protections for the workers involved, and the effects of this movement still affect the business and labor world today.
As a private institution, Goshen College is not required to close for federal holidays. Think of that what you will, but recognize that it wasn’t just students who worked on Monday—all of your professors, custodial staff, administrators, faculty and food-service workers were here too, laboring alongside you.
And yes, while it may be painful for us to see our friends and family post photos of backyard barbeques and days on the lake while we’re in class, that’s not really the point of the holiday. Personally, I don’t feel strongly one way or the other as to whether we have classes or not, but if the reason you think we should have had off is to pay tribute to the laborers who had a huge role in US history, there are absolutely some things you can do.
Read history about the labor unions. Have a conversation with someone who is currently a part of a union, and see how they feel about it now. Listen to one of many, many Labor Day Addresses that happen each year. Participate in the holiday rather than letting it pass by in a haze of food and fireworks.
And if you still don’t think that you should have been in a classroom instead of barbequing on Monday…well, at least you were here with good company.