Major League Baseball rolls out special jerseys and caps for several holidays. And, as they are quick to remind you, they back up those special caps and jerseys with charitable outreach. Funds and awareness are raised for various noble causes for Earth Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial Day and the Fourth of July via baseball’s highly-visible and well-publicized on-the-field nods to them during the season.
But not Labor Day. There are no special caps, jerseys or philanthropic tie-ins on this day. No statement from the commissioner honoring labor, organized or otherwise. It can’t be because Major League Baseball doesn’t know it’s Labor Day. I mean, they scheduled 13 of today’s 15 games for this afternoon, which never happens on a Monday, so they’re taking financial advantage of the holiday. They just can’t seem to be bothered to care about its purpose. Indeed, at times in the past parts of Major League Baseball have been downright hostile to anyone acknowledging its purpose.
This, of course, is not just Major League Baseball’s failing. It’s a reflection of where we are as a society. Organized labor makes up a smaller portion of the workforce than it ever has. Even a great many of the people who do the working in this country have bought in to the notion — propagated by those who profit from labor — that unions are tools of the communists and giving any lip service to the rights of workers is a suspect and even un-American pursuit. Good, secure jobs with good pay and benefits have come to be seen as rare luxuries for which it is rude to ask, let alone expect. Many workers have adopted the language of the rich and powerful in this regard, having been convinced that their need to hustle harder than they used to in order to make less in real dollars than they used to is somehow a good thing. As if using your time off from your main job to drive an Uber or to let in boarders in your apartment via Airbnb is “entrepreneurial” rather than “taking a second, benefits-free job to make ends meet.”
There are obvious political overtones to any conversation about labor. But no matter what your views are when it comes to those matters, the fact remains that the whole fabric of our society rests upon labor. People die on the job every day. People have died in the name of worker’s rights and in the name of keeping more people from dying on the job. Labor built this country. The labor movement has saved lives that would have been lost and has elevated the standard of living of families. Odds are that, whether you accept it or not, labor and workers in your own family allowed you to get where you are now.
Labor activists may not be commonly portrayed as conventionally heroic as soldiers and the work of the labor movement may not be as visible nor as immediately relatable as that of our military, but they are still worth your remembrance. They are worth a moment and a gesture. They are worth the time and recognition of our institutions. That includes Major League Baseball, which has, for half a century, owed its billions to the work of an active and organized labor force.
Maybe a special cap or jersey isn’t a big deal and maybe it wouldn’t make a difference. But our values are revealed in both our substantive and our symbolic gestures. And it’s regrettable that the quintessentially American institution of baseball can’t find time to give even a nod to the men and women who form the figurative foundation of American society and built the literal foundation of America itself.