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August 30, 2013

ADAMCZYK: Labor Day in a convent


Tonawanda News — We all think we’re laborers. We’re not, but even the white-collar union workers borrow heavily from the grunt workers’ playbook when it comes to organizing.

The previous decade’s trend, in industries that think they understand the future, is to pack offices with toys, to turn workspaces into play lands: do a little work, relax a little, do some more work. Only lately have the suffering coders and big-picture seers caught on; the idea is to make the work environment more inviting than the home environment. So people hang around more. And work more.

These flashy, high-tech offices are not crucibles of progress and breakthrough; they are convents for meditation about, and delivery of, the job at hand. Give me a noisy shop floor, any day.

Modern labor is on call 24/7 (that’s what those cellphones and Wi-Fi-equipped coffee shops are for). Modern labor is training when it’s not working, polishing resumes and competing with Singapore and Bangladesh and Poland. Modern labor is human beings with rapidly obsoleting skill sets in rapidly aging human bodies, doing things cheaper and faster with an eye on the bottom line and on on-time delivery. These people need a day off from the logistics of it all, but the big wheel does not stop turning for Labor Day. Wall Street, maybe, but not the big wheel.

So take the day off if you can, and note how many people labor on Labor Day. The area’s police, the doctors and nurses, those who provide you with television programs and sell you charcoal and hot dogs and furniture. Count the number of car dealers who are open on the day to honor workers.

Those Industrial Revolution guys staring out from old photographs of workers’ celebrations likely knew they made an advance of sorts when they left the farm to participate in the urban workforce. Whether they knew the advance would involve an eventual splintering into a hundred million independent contractors, desperately celebrating something called Labor Day, is another matter entirely.

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident whose column appears Fridays in the Tonawanda News. Contact him at

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