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Labor Day without a job is no holiday

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TESS VIGELAND: So what are you doing this weekend? Wringing that last bit of fun out of the end of summer? Labor Day festivities seem to be far removed from the holiday’s origins. And for some workers, especially want-to-be-workers, it’s a reminder of what’s missing.

Here’s commentator, Peter Basch.

Peter Basch: I’ve had 36 great Labor Days in my life, getting that sweet paid day off to watch the parade and go to a barbecue. But this one is my second I’ve had without a job. Makes me feel kind of left out, like Valentine’s Day without a date, or New Year’s Eve without a party, or Arbor Day without an arbor.

I used to design PowerPoint presentations for investment banks, so I’m not a member of a union. But I always felt like I should march in their parade. The only reason my bosses gave me good pay for an eight-hour day with one-hour for lunch and a nice clean breakroom, was because of union members who risked their lives.

The only way to keep us from organizing? was to provide what labor had fought for: Decent working conditions. Working conditions that I don’t get to enjoy so much now, because I don’t have a job. I really miss the free cereal in the breakroom, the birthday cakes, the weekly pizza, the endless rivers of Diet Coke. Not to mention the great air conditioning and broadband.

And the people. The typist, who somehow had my boss under her thumb; the mailroom guy with the heavy metal hair that I mocked but secretly envied; the top executive who took up my time to talk about art, because he used to be a painter. This Labor Day I really miss them all.

But in my 14th month of unemployment, it’s dawning on me that some jobs may never come back. So I’ve started to explore other alternatives. Instead of doing computer work for banks, I’ll be giving tech support to private clients, going to their homes to clean up their PCs and train them on software.

So on Labor Day 2010, I will celebrate in a brand new way. By working, as my own boss. I won’t go to the parade, but I guess I can barbecue a burger for myself. Then, I’ll have to organize my own labor and get back to work.

Vigeland: Peter Basch is a playwright and computer consultant.

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