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Laboring for Change

Karla Edwards
Karla Edwards
Executive Director

In our lifetimes, Labor Day has become the unofficial end of summer. A three-day weekend where we plan that last family trip before Thanksgiving or a time for a backyard BBQ with friends. The pandemic and the ripple effect it caused in our labor market is a great time to reflect on its original purpose.

Labor Day was signed into law by President Grover Cleveland in 1894. This day is set aside to celebrate workers and their achievements that came into existence during a bleak period in the labor workforce. During the Industrial Revolution, Americans worked 12-hour days, 7 days a week, children as young as 5 worked in factories and mines earning a fraction of adults, and the very poor and migrants labored in unsanitary conditions with insufficient breaks and fresh air.

The pandemic has caused Americans to be forced to look at labor in a different way. What was once unfathomable has become the norm. Many have grown to love working from home. Some who were laid off became entrepreneurs. We also saw the rise of the great resignation in 2021. Causes of this movement include wage stagnation amid the rising cost of living, long-lasting job dissatisfaction, safety concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the desire to work for companies with better remote-working policies.

My organization, Ampact, a national nonprofit that administers seven AmeriCorps programs in the areas of education, environment, and healthy futures, is seeing the effects of the labor market change. This year we experience huge gains in applications and hires. Many of these applicants were looking to effect change. With our education programs, we have retired and former educators who want to serve students in a different capacity outside the classroom. We also have non-educators who became tutors for their grandchildren, siblings, and church members while they were attending school virtually. They saw the impact that they had with a few and wanted the opportunity to make a difference with many. Through their service with AmeriCorps, they are bridging the gap for students, parents, and teachers.
On this Labor Day, let’s reflect on laboring for change. How can you put your passion into action?

As Americans, we all can get things done to make our people safer, healthier, and smarter. Take your rest this holiday and recharge for a commitment to strengthen our communities through your various endeavors.


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