While some may see the holidays as a time to rest, it is, for better or worse, different for small businesses: you know that your business maybe does not have the time nor resources to stop, or you see it as a time to really interact and monopolize on the long weekend.
This Monday September 4th is Labor Day, a day which falls on the first Monday in September, which for some people will consist of a paid day-off or for having barbecues.
Initial perceptions may also indicate that Labor Day, just like May Day everywhere else in the world, which is to celebrate the prevalence of workers over business owners; however, small businesses represent over 99% of the country’s employing firms and nearly 50% of all private-sector jobs. This means that Labor Day goes hand in hand with the mission of America’s small businesses: the mission being to get the country working and move toward economic prosperity. See the following statement from the website for the Department of Labor:
“The vital force of labor added materially to the highest standard of living and the greatest production the world has ever known and has brought us closer to the realization of our traditional ideals of economic and political democracy. It is appropriate, therefore, that the nation pays tribute on Labor Day to the creator of so much of the nation’s strength, freedom, and leadership — the American worker.”
But what is the true meaning of Labor Day? Let’s take a momentary dive into the history of unions and America.
Why have off for Labor Day?
Well, back in the 1830s before unions made workers’ rights an important consideration by businesses, the average worker put in 70 hours per week and under terrible conditions.
Though by the 1890s this had dropped to 60 hours per week, unions began to advocate for eight-hour work days over five-day weeks. This came to fruition in 1882, which was the first Labor Day; it was achieved by a strike, which was then supposed to be followed by a massive parade and picnic.
By 1894, over 23 states had passed legislation for a working man’s day, and the federal government followed suit with Labor Day being signed in as a National Holiday by President Grover Cleveland.
The early 1900s were a time of transition, as companies were forced to take worker’s liberties and rights seriously such as Ford raising its minimum wage to $5 and reduced the workweek to 40 hours. When Ford did this, he did not see any downfall in his business — in fact; he saw profits double over two years!
When other businesses realized how important it was to consider their workers, albeit maybe in response to bigger profit gains, they began to fall in line with this ideology. The New Deal, enacted under President FDR, made 40 hour works the maximum and mandated overtime for anything over that and greatly improve conditions for workers and the American people.
Labor Day is a celebration of the American spirit, values of which have consistently been driven by workers — including that of small business owners like you, who make up the backbone of the American economy.
For most of America’s businesses, Labor Day should also represent a time of reflection and a time of transition.
Labor Day is a good day to reflect on what everyone who works for and alongside SMBs means to you as a small business owner: what is in their daily lives?
Workers are not just people who clock in and out, their purpose not just to get paid they are people with their own flourishing being. They are critical assets to making your small business work, so what keeps them motivated? Are you encouraging loyalty through them, and giving them the opportunity to contribute meaningfully to your business?
Furthermore, consider the big picture of the American worker with these Labor Day numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- 63.4% of U.S. civilians are participating in the labor force.
- 6.8 million workers hold more than one job.
- There were 11.5 million unemployed workers as of July 2013, down to 7.4% nationally
With its timing, Labor Day is also a time of new beginnings: a time of transition.
It marks the end of summer, and the beginning of a new period that coincides with children going back to school or university and people’s lives picking back up until the holidays. Take time to consider how your business will move forward for the upcoming year and your goals for what you want to achieve.
Motivation is an important factor to consider for workers in your small business. When you sign on a staff member, they have an obligation to you and their job, but this is not a one-way transaction: you have to think about how to provide a fruitful environment so that your workers can thrive. This, in turn, benefits your small business — companies who inspire their workers to be driven are 43% more productive.
Listen to your employees’ concerns and address any issues or questions they might have, and create a place where healthy professional relationships can be nurtured. To give your employee a reason to come in beyond simply receiving a deposit in the bank account is a worthwhile investment.
Most importantly, amidst appreciating all of these other groups that make your business successful, take time out for yourself! You deserve it. Do something for yourself too: meet with friends and family, have a cookout or even simply acknowledge that you too deserve recognition on Labor Day.
The Bottom Line
This is a day for celebration of the rights won for workers, the improvement of relations between businesses and their staff, and a day of gratitude for all of the union history that has given us many things even if there is room for improvement.
Celebrate yourself outside of Labor Day too, by easing your day out of tasks that could be easily automated. CUE’s team of experts have curated software solutions meant to optimize your day to allow you to do what inspires you the most: your small business. Look at our marketplace here, and see all the ways you can save your business time and money!
This article was derived and inspired by “What Does Labor Day Mean for Your Small Business”, which was posted on the website Business 2 Community (B2C) and authored by Brent Barnhart. Check out the original version here.