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Opinion

September 12, 2013

The real meaning of Labor Day

NORMAN — Before I left for my journey to Henryetta for their annual Labor Day Parade, I read the guest column in the Norman Transcript by Oklahoma Labor Commissioner Mark Costello.

Commissioner Costello started out talking about why we celebrate Labor Day but quickly ventured into a dialog about entrepreneurism and big business, the typical Republican rhetoric.

As I drove along the interstate, I kept thinking about the column, written by a person that apparently has never done a “day’s work” like I and many others have. It jogged my memory of his earlier statements calling state employees, then teachers, “feral hogs.”

We recognize Labor Day to honor the laborers that made our state and country great. The backbone of the middle class, the people who work hard to earn a day’s wages and spend it to better their own families. The same labor that is rebuilding Oklahoma communities hit by devastating tornadoes this spring. Heavy equipment operators that helped remove all the debris, the sanitation workers that were even working that day while the rest of us had a holiday.

I thought of the carpenters, electricians, roofers, concrete workers, plumbers who will help rebuild houses, schools and buildings destroyed by the storm. Those skilled workers, known as “allied trades” in the union parlance, are the reasons we celebrate Labor Day.

As I drove down the highway, I saw the large number of trucks carrying the goods of America to market. Even though it was Labor Day, they were still working, keeping America humming.

That reminded me of my days working in the trucking industry, keeping the “big rigs” running down the highways. Someone has to maintain the trucks and trailers to haul America’s freight.

On the way, I stopped and bought gas; convenience store workers were on the job this holiday, and I saw three different Oklahoma Highway patrol cars, so they were also working this holiday. That made me think of the Oklahoma Department of Corrections, where the overworked and underpaid state employees were probably working another 16-hour shift because, as you know, guarding prisoners is a never-ending job.

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