Today we celebrate work and the work that has gone into making that possible. We celebrate Labor. Labor Day came at a time when people felt they had no collective influence against their employers and needed to come together to have a chance at creating change.
The height of that tension was in the late 19th century when the workweek for full-time manufacturing employees was often over 100 hours. In 1886, people came together in Chicago to demand a 40-hour workweek and to protest the recent killing of a striker by police. The tension between protestors and police escalated and more than a dozen people were killed in the rallies. What became known as The Haymarket Affair set off waves of anti-immigrant and anti-labor sentiments. Eventually, through relentless work and a combination of Government and Private Company actions, we found ourselves with a mutual understanding between companies and employees: certain protections are necessary. The 40-hour workweek was born.
Since the beginning of employment (paid or unpaid) this tension has existed and there have been many attempts to balance it through policy or organization. Repeatedly they have failed. Few have focused on what labor really means to us on an emotional level which is purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. Ultimately, the only one that can provide these things for a person is themselves. This realization often leads people to assume their only option is to start their own company, but this often just perpetuates the rat race.
There’s a better way forward. First, let’s get clear on what we want and what brings us a sense of purpose, meaning, and fulfillment. Then, rather than pursue these things in isolation, let us do it as a community. Let’s face it—, managing and growing careers can be very lonely, and employers still have an unbalanced amount of information and power. A career community can provide a collective infrastructure while also understanding the needs of individuals. Communication and organization between workers have secured many gains in terms of compensation and conditions for employees, so let’s use that same model of community support to help individuals find fulfillment at work too.
In the end, you work for you. If that’s a company you start or as part of an organization, find the work you love, help others on their journey, and celebrate it with your community today.
David Fano is the Founder & CEO at Teal