These days, we tend to take the eight hour work day for granted.
(Historical side-note here: this standard working shift is all thanks to the "eight-hour movement," an early labour cause that called for legal limits on work hours, so that individuals could have eight hours of work, eight hours of recreation and eight hours of sleep in a 24-hour day, rather than working 10, 12 or even 16 hours a day.)
Sure, there are some workers on shift schedules with longer days - like nurses, doctors and air traffic controllers - but for the most part, the Average Joe and Jane work about eight hours, five days a week. Well, at least, on paper.
Thanks to the Internet, BlackBerries, smartphones, and all the rest of the technological goodies, there is no distinct "end" of the work day for many people, as phone calls and emails continue to flow long after they've left the office. So much for eight hours of sleep and eight hours of recreation.
But long "unofficial" work days are just one modern working peril.
According to this year's Labour Day poll conducted by Harris/Decima for the job-search website Monster.com, roughly one in three workers in both the Baby Boomer generation and Gen Y (20-somethings), aren't satisfied with their work. There's a litany of reasons specified in the poll: Lack of mentorship for new, younger staff; perceived lack of job security and expectation of having to change jobs; lack of support for aging workers.
Because so many of the big battles have been fought - like those to stop child labour, end 16-hour work days and improve dangerous working conditions - it's easy to think that organized labour movements aren't as necessary as they once were. But in truth, as work places evolve and new generations discover unexpected challenges in the workplace, unions will remain a vital and critical component of our country.
This Labour Day, take time to thank those early labour fighters - and consider how to pick up their torch for the 21st century.