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Area workers share thoughts on Labor Day

September 01, 2013|By CALEB CALHOUN | caleb.calhoun@herald-mail.com

HAGERSTOWN — Labor Day has a deeper meaning for some area workers than just a day of recognition and time off from work.

Guy Greene of Hagerstown said that as workers are honored on Labor Day, it is important to remember the U.S. soldiers fighting overseas because they don’t get to take the holiday off.

“I’m retired from the military, so I know what it is to work every weekend and every holiday,” he said. “I’ve got to give them pride and thank them for it.”

Frank Wiley of Hagerstown, who served in Vietnam, said members of the military should be recognized on Labor Day.

“They need to recognize more for the troops than they are doing now,” he said. “They need workforces and jobs just as much as other people do.”

As local residents were working throughout the county last week, some of them talked about what Labor Day means to them, outside of just a day off and a vacation weekend.

Greene, 73, and Wiley, 67, both members of the Funkstown American Legion, were performing volunteer maintenance work in the field behind the legion last week. Both said Labor Day is a day for the United States to respect its workers. They also said that laborers deserve more benefits, such as an increase in the minimum wage.

“It should go up a little bit higher from what it is because people can’t live off what they’re making today,” Greene said. “At $7.15 or $7.25 an hour, you can’t live off that with one or two children and a family.”

Maryland’s minimum wage is $7.25 an hour, according to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website, www.dol.gov.

Gordon Cook of Falling Waters, W.Va., also a member of the Funkstown American Legion, agreed that the minimum wage should be raised, suggesting it be taken to between $8 and $10 an hour, but not $15 an hour as some protesting fast-food workers have been requesting in recent weeks.

He said he also thinks laborers are respected in the United States.

“I know that working people respect other working people,” he said. “I think in general, Americans respect the labor force.”

Labor Day was first celebrated by the Central Labor Union on Tuesday, Sept. 5, 1882, in New York City, according to the Department of Labor. The union celebrated the holiday again on Sept. 5, 1883, and in 1884, it selected the first Monday in September as the holiday, pushing for similar organizations in other cities to do the same.

Oregon passed a law recognizing the holiday on Feb. 21, 1887, and by 1894, 23 states began observing the day. On June 28, 1894, Congress made it a legal holiday nationwide.

Jeff Bachtell of Hagerstown, who was working on a construction project last week near the Weis parking lot on Eastern Boulevard, said he thinks the country still does not respect its workers, despite the holidays, because of how little many laborers are paid. He added that the minimum wage should be raised because, “It’s hard for people to survive nowadays.”

Joseph Ryan of Hagerstown, who was digging holes in the grassy areas along the side of Robinwood Drive last week as part of the project to widen the road, said he does not think Americans look down on laborers.

“It’s a job, and somebody’s got to get paid,” he said.

Ryan, 18, said he believed the minimum wage should be raised to between $8.75 and $9.25 an hour.

“Right now, it’s not enough, especially if you’re working part time,” he said.

James Howard of Hagerstown also was digging along the side of Robinwood Drive for the project. He said he wishes the United States would appreciate “all the hard work” some workers do outside.

“The office people are sitting in a nice air-conditioned room, and we’re out here sweating 10 hours a day,” he said.

Howard, 19, said he supports raising the minimum wage, but he also said in general, he thinks the country respects its workers.

“We get paid a decent amount, and some people appreciate what we do, and other people don’t,” he said.

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