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SPOTLIGHT
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Labor Day

Published on -8/31/2014, 4:39 PM

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Remember when Labor Day was the traditional end of summer? One last hurrah such as a family get-together or a quick get-away and then fall began?

Those days are long gone. Public swimming pools closed in Hays three weeks ago, while public schools opened up one day later. As the national holiday is designated as the first Monday in September, local school districts would need to delay that first bell of the semester quite a bit for summer to run all the way to Labor Day. We don't see that happening.

Such is life.

Labor Day doesn't even honor the traditions of the past that celebrated the social and economic achievements of American workers. The day first was observed in 1882 as the result of a labor union in New York City. The notion spread through other unions and picked up steam. While laborers might not have benefitted from all the fruits of their labor, it was well-recognized this country was strong and prosperous because of them.

Nowadays unions are at historically low participation levels, and many states are doing their best to crush what's left of organized labor. Contracts negotiated long ago regarding pensions and retirement plans are getting in the way of state governments intent on downsizing and privatizing all they can.

In the first outline detailing what Labor Day should be, it suggested a "street parade to exhibit to the public 'the strength and esprit de corps of the trade and labor organizations' of the community, followed by a festival for the recreation and amusement of the workers and their families."

When was the last time you took part in one of those community events? Most of us never have.

Still, the majority of the U.S. work force does get a paid holiday -- and a three-day weekend to boot. Many still take the opportunity to travel. Thanks to gas prices averaging 20 cents less than they were a year ago, AAA anticipates a slight increase in those hitting the road for treks more than 50 miles from home.

Even a still-sluggish economy is not preventing a 1.5-percent increase in holiday travel compared to 2013.

"While economic growth is slow, consumers are feeling more comfortable taking on debt and using their credit cards to take one last summer vacation this year," according to James Hanni, AAA spokesman.

That increase has prompted law enforcement to respond in kind. The Kansas Highway Patrol will take part in a Special Traffic Enforcement Program as it looks for drunk drivers, seatbelt violators and ill-fitting child safety seats.

Whatever you and yours actually celebrate this weekend, we encourage you to do it safely. Labor Day seems to lose its significance even further when somebody can't show up for work on Tuesday because they were injured or killed during the weekend.

Be safe in whatever you do.

Editorial by Patrick Lowry

plowry@dailynews.net

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