OPINION: Labor Day should not be for labor

This is an opinion article. Any views expressed belong solely to the author and are not representative of The Cluster.

We are a few weeks into the semester, and Mercer’s undergraduate students are settled into their new living spaces on campus — or at least, I hope they are. With the changes to the fall semester schedule, they won’t have an opportunity to return to their hometowns for a long weekend anytime soon.

After adjusting to new schedules and being reconnected with friends, students would normally be looking forward to Labor Day at this point in the semester. Whether they are seeking a three-day weekend to get relief from classes or to take a trip back home to see their families, the Labor Day holiday provides a nice break for college students and faculty alike. 

According to the schedule alterations, students and faculty will not receive Labor Day off this year. Students were notified of the modified calendar through an email sent by the university in June. This schedule change also set in-person classes to end the week prior to Thanksgiving break, requiring students to take their final exams online. 

Mercer’s revised fall schedule is a proactive measure to discourage student travel amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. This additional measure is being enforced alongside temperature checks and mask mandates inside university facilities.The measure is understandable considering the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the state of Georgia.

But is working on Labor Day a necessary action to prevent the spread of coronavirus on campus? To answer that question, the free will of students and faculty to acknowledge their own safety standards needs to be considered. As students return to campus, Mercer has little control over what activities they choose to engage in outside of university facilities and while in the Macon community. 

The sentiment the university is signaling to its students through the removal of the Labor Day break is appreciated, but recognizing the traditional holiday is the appropriate thing to do. 

Labor Day is a national holiday observed by most institutions and many businesses. It’s celebrated on the first Monday of September to honor the contributions of American workers. 

It would be beneficial if Mercer chose to continue to acknowledge the Labor Day holiday this semester because as students and faculty are adjusting to wearing masks, avoiding large crowds and Zoom calls, we are all seeking a sense of normalcy in this unprecedented time. Labor Day would provide a chance for faculty and students to take a breather— under their mask if they are in a public place, of course. 

Additionally, we must remember that Labor Day is more than a day for sales or beach trips. Labor Day became a national holiday after American laborers protested unfair work conditions during the Second Industrial Revolution. It’s a holiday focused on thanking America’s laborers for their work and paying homage to the livelihood of the American dream.   

Labor Day should still be treated as the national holiday that it is: a holiday celebrated because of the pride Americans have in their work and the contributions they consistently make to the United States.