Skip to contents
Food & Drink

You Know, More Restaurants Could Do This

Who is Labor Day really for?

Sign on St. Paul Bagelry's door shows that they're closed on Labor Day
Em Cassel

Happy Day After Labor Day! Here’s a tweet I can’t stop thinking about:

It’s tough to argue with. Even if you fundamentally support labor movements and workers rights (as I do), you might find yourself walking up to a bagel shop on Labor Day to procure your morning coffee and bagel (as I did) only to see a sign like the one pictured above telling you that the workers here actually get the day off.

Humbling!

And altogether too rare. On this Labor Day as on almost every other, it was easy for me (yuppie) to go about daily life with the assumption that folks in the service industry would still be there to serve. A few local food and drink establishments—LynLake Brewery, Modist Brewing Co.—closed to give their staff time to relax, as the day was intended. Most didn’t. (In fairness, some are already closed on Mondays.)

It begs the question: Who is this day really for? Whose labor do we value, and whose do we devalue even as we rely on it? Especially in a year when restaurant owners are complaining that they can’t hire enough people to keep the doors open, you’d think they could give everyone a day off. Why not thank those who’ve been showing up, short-staffed and exhausted, to deal with the entitled masses?

Kim Kelly once wrote that Labor Day is a “government scam” meant to defang May Day and shore up working-class voters. She’s not wrong. And most food and beverage workers are paid hourly—a day off on Monday is just a day you’ve gotta make that money up later in the week. There’s kind of no good solution here.

Unless… what if we acknowledge how much we rely on “unskilled” laborers, make Labor Day a paid holiday for all, raise the federal minimum wage to $26 an hour, and give people health care whether or not they’re employed?

I don’t know. Just something to think about.