While most of us think of the upcoming Labor Day weekend as the unofficial end to summer, the holiday’s meaning is much more significant than that. For 126 years now, it has also been the time we pay tribute to those who have, quite literally, made our country into what is today.
This day also recognizes the many hard-fought gains we have seen in the workplace – and the challenges we still need to tackle.
From an historical perspective, we have definitely come a long way since the first nationwide Labor Day celebration in 1894. Back then, for example, children barely old enough for school were often working six days a week, sometimes taking on the most dangerous jobs because of their small size.
Here in Kentucky, it wasn’t until 1902 that the state said those under the age of 14 couldn’t be hired full-time, and even that was not guaranteed if parents gave their consent to the employer. Four years later, the legislature capped child labor at 60 hours a week.
Labor Day has an especially strong meaning this year as we continue to battle against the worst pandemic in a century. Now more than ever, we appreciate the hard work that so many Americans have done to keep our nation running as safely as possible.
Kentucky is fortunate to have a diverse workforce that can handle the task ahead. Few states have a higher percentage of employees in manufacturing, which is a key reason why we are leaders in such areas as the auto and aerospace industries and export growth.
In recent years, we have also consistently been among the top one or two states when measuring the number of large-scale economic development projects announced on a per-person basis.
I know that if those behind the first celebration of this holiday could see us today, they would be proud that we have both honored their legacy and built upon it.
That’s what makes this holiday so special, because it looks back with respect and looks forward with expectation of even better days. It is with that in mind that I hope you and your family have a wonderful time this upcoming three-day weekend.