Today is Labor Day across our great country. It is a day that has become embedded in my mind over the years as the last day of “official” summer and the beginning of the new school year. Here in Minnesota it also marks the last day of our 12-day State Fair and is the unofficial time for boaters like me to get our boats out of the water for the season. Labor Day also marks for me the end of the summer golf season – of which I really take part in since I have retired from active funeral directing. I still get to golf but I understand that any short sleeve shirt and golf shorts days are at a premium and that Fall golf season is beautiful, but a little bit (or a lot) colder here in Minnesota.
I would also be remiss if I did not mention the idea of Labor Day. In America, one of the reasons that we prosper so much is that businesses work hard to reward all of the people involved in the operation of that business. It takes equity stockholders who put their money at risk, it takes management people who are many times the go-between among the equity stockholders and the employees, and it takes fairly compensated employees to do much of the work that can lead to the profits.
In the funeral home business, like other small businesses, the equity stockholders and the management are many times the same people. And, many times the employees are family or the business is small enough that you have that familial relationship. I found over the years that when the employees of our funeral home did well, so did I. The key to having a well operated business is to bring that success to all levels — equity, management, and employees. Getting on the same page and working for the good of all is the best way to accomplish that task.
I’m an amateur history buff and history shows us that we have to be on the same page thought-wise about business compensation at all levels. Sometimes the rewards get out of whack at some levels and we read about it in a fight for a higher wage. But those who work and want higher wages must also understand that risks to the equity side must also be rewarded. However, I’ve learned when rewards get out of whack one way or another, the marketplace usually dictates and brings it back into a fair reality.
I don’t know how much is taught in school anymore about the conflicts over the years between shareholders, management, and labor, however, my schooling taught me about some of the struggles that led to better working conditions for all in America. One of those was the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire that you can read about here. Employees were locked into an 8th floor room on a Saturday to do their 7 hours of work that day when a fire broke out and 146 garment workers perished.
The employers were eventually found not guilty of manslaughter but were held liable in a civic trial where each deceased worker’s family was awarded $75 in compensation. This case highlighted the inequity between shareholders and workers at that time and our progression to fairness because of it is part of why we celebrate Labor Day.
Have a great day!