Labour Day Contradiction

Today, the 1st of May, Labor day is a holiday that celebrates and honors workers. Image This photo on facebook reminded me of the shirts that the construction workers working on my site wear. These are all semi-skilled laborers - masons and bricklayers. Their shirts are not half as bad - but somewhat similar. They would prefer to wear no shirts at all when they work outdoors in the sultry weather but they usually put on some threads to cover up. Are they working today? YES. Would they prefer not to? Would they prefer to enjoy this Labor Day public holiday, put up their feet and rest? NO WAY. They are paid daily wages and such holidays held 'in honor' of their hard work or 'celebrating them' are meaningless to them.  What they do celebrate is the fact that they have work today. They want to work today. They do not want to lose a single opportunity to earn. Should I force them to rest? Should I force them out of a day's pay? No? Then how do I settle this contradiction in my own head about 'how can laborers work on labor day?'? Or should I just kill my own thoughts about this contradiction that have absolutely no bearing on the real life of these men? I talk to them daily and I know their lives. They work for the contractor that I have hired. They are paid fair wages as per the norm of this area. They are neither bonded labor nor are they slaves of any sort. They work of their own free will driven by the same motivations as the rest of us.  They are the masters of their own time. And they have chosen to work today. They have chosen to 'earn' today. They are oblivious to the idea of labor day. And even if one were to educate them on this concept, they would probably trash it as an idea that does not apply to them. This contradiction is purely my problem - a result of straddling two almost-unconnected worlds. jm May1, 2013


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