Service industry workers are the backbone of our country. Without them, you would not have your Labor Day weekend barbeque materials, morning coffee or lifeguarded beach.
Millions went to work today without any extra compensation. Service industry workers should not be left behind yet again as we celebrate this holiday honoring American workers. They deserve a paid day off so the hypocrisy of a national “Labor Day” will finally end.
Labor Day was created to honor the hard work of Americans and thank them for their service. It was created amidst the civil unrest of the late 18th century when millions of Americans were overworked in industrial and factory jobs, many of which were in deplorable conditions and paid them unlivable wages. Protests in this time period, such as the Pullman Strike, which resulted in riots, led to Labor Day being signed into law on June 28th, 1894. However, most service industry workers do not reap the benefit from this hard-earned day off.
If Labor Day was actually created to give relief to some of the most grueling and demanding jobs in this country, then those in the service industry would have the day off. While most of the country takes the day off to barbecue, camp, go to the beach or go out to eat, those working in the service industry are clocking in for their third double shift of the weekend. Most restaurants, coffee shops, bars and grocery stores stay open to serve the needs of the rest of the population who have this day to relax. Those working in service industry jobs often work harder, longer, and more demanding hours than office jobs. They also rarely receive paid time off and work most holidays.
Tori Kauffman, a graduate student at CU Boulder, works at Whole Foods along with balancing an internship and being a full-time student. Kauffman works an upward of 30 hours a week. When she got into the service industry she did not expect to have holidays such as Labor Day and Memorial Day off. For other people, Labor Day means barbecuing, camping, getting time off.
“For me, I just always assumed it means I’m going to work and it’s going to be busy,” she said. For Kauffman, some of her busiest days at work are holidays because everyone else is taking a break.
Many service industry workers receive no more than minimum wage plus tips. This means they have to provide the highest level of customer service at all times or their paycheck will suffer. Unlike many salaried Americans, they do not have the safety net of a set monthly paycheck. In hard times, such as during a pandemic, an economic downturn, or simply the offseason, these are the workers who suffer the most. With long shifts, these workers often have little protection if they get sick. With COVID-19 this is more likely a possibility. Service industry workers should not be left behind yet again as we celebrate this holiday honoring American workers. They deserve a paid day off, so the hypocrisy of a national “labor day” will finally end.
Service industry workers will wait on the hordes of people enjoying their day off. They will be yelled at by disgruntled customers, scolded by managers and not given a break all while supplying beer, food and a good time. They will consume their lunches in a dimly lit back room of a restaurant, grocery store or bar. They will decline numerous invitations to barbecues from their friends. Most will not be thanked for their hard work. Do not forget to tip your server a little extra today, thank your barista for that specially made coffee and tell your grocery store check-out clerk that you appreciate them. These essential workers do in fact keep this country afloat.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Emily Ladd at firstname.lastname@example.org.