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Archive for September 4th, 2011

Reading Tenured Radical’s post today about the fact that she hates teaching on Labor Day reminded me that there has never been a semester I’ve taught when I didn’t teach on Labor Day.  In fact, teaching on Labor Day has become so ingrained that I forget it is a holiday (this, I suppose, is one of TR’s points).  My wife mentioned not having to work on Monday and it took me a minute to figure out why she got a day off and I didn’t (the fact that there are scores of days each year that she has to go to work and I can do whatever I want never prevents me from being jealous of a day off!).

Schedule-wise, I understand the appeal of working on the first or second Monday of the semester.  At my current school we have a two-day fall break and a three-day Thanksgiving break, which means that every day of the week is missed once during the fall semester.  This would be a perfect match for the full-week spring break in the spring semester (working on MLK Day – another tradition) if it weren’t for Easter throwing a wrench into the works like a Luddite.

I have to admit that I enjoy having a fall break much more than I would enjoy not working on Labor Day, but I would enjoy having both even more.  As it stands, laboring on Labor Day may be another sign of the decline of a sense of unity among workers, or even the recognition that faculty members are, in fact, workers.  TR concludes things better than I could, stating:

One unexpected cultural outcome of Labor Day is that, when we take the day off, we all acknowledge for a day that we are “workers,” and that we sell ourselves to an employer for a price.  When faculty agree to work on Labor Day, we reveal something peculiar about ourselves:  that we don’t see ourselves as “workers” at all.  We think we are something else, something called a “professional” who has exchanged the benefits of being part of a collective bargaining system for status.  We think this, even though our labor is increasingly proletarianized, our salaries and benefits are being deliberately suppressed, and it is possible to lose access to a federally mandated holiday by not showing up at a faculty meeting and voting for your right to have it.

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