It might be viewed as a symbolic end to summer, but Labor Day stands for much more than just the changing of seasons.

The federal holiday, celebrated on the first Monday of September, is a recognition of the U.S. workforce. It’s a salute to organized labor, the folks who fought to end sweat shops and to implement workplace safety regulations. These are the folks who brought us paid time off and a 40-hour work week.

Our country's strength was forged through blue-collar workers, but the pandemic has taught us just how valuable laborers are to our way of life.

Facing unprecedented circumstances, workers adjusted. They wore masks and had their temperatures taken to enter the job site. They traded office meetings for Zoom calls. They balanced their children's virtual learning with their own work-from-home responsibilities. They kept our economy alive when the future was anything but certain.

Many professionals have put their lives on the line to help us survive this virus. Health care workers, public safety employees and educators immediately come to mind, but they're not alone when it comes to taking risks. The cashier at your neighborhood convenience store, the server at your favorite restaurant and the truck driver hauling commodities you need to survive have also taken chances.

At the same time, we're seeing too many businesses closing due to a lack of workers. Those who cannot find work should be helped, but we shouldn't reward poor work habits with government subsidies.

Still, the issue isn’t quite as simple as merely exhorting unemployed workers to find a job.

Multiple reports have cited lack of a skilled workforce as a major challenge for our state. Those same studies often find that wages are too low, and that state leaders should be more focused on attracting employees by fostering better pay and benefits instead of cutting taxes for employers.

We're also behind on addressing obstacles like childcare and transportation. Those who can't find a ride to work, or can't afford to send children to daycare, are likely to drop out of the labor force. That's a scenario that hurts all of us.

But the blood, sweat and tears that were shed to build and sustain this country weren't sacrificed in the pursuit of complacency.

So in the midst of all the fun and frivolity this Labor Day weekend, let us not forget that there's work still to be done.

We need to bolster job training programs and support education. We ought to ensure that anyone willing to put in the time and effort to succeed can earn a living wage.

— News and Tribune, Jeffersonville, Ind.

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