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ENEWS: Labor Day & the return to work

Date Published: 09/09/2021

Author: Erin Wilson

Labor Day 

This week we observed Labor Day (officially recognized as a federal holiday in 1894), a day originally intended to honor the “common worker.” Check out this article from NPR on three pivotal moments from worker’s history to remember this Labor Day that are “central to U.S. history, the modern labor movement, and today's workplace.” This was now our second Labor Day during COVID-19, which has drastically changed the workplace for many and shifted how many of us think about the country’s labor force. 

"As we face challenges of growing levels of wage and income inequality, hazardous working conditions in the midst of COVID, there are lessons we can learn from the past," said University of Virginia history professor Claudrena Harold in the NPR article. 

But for many, Labor Day is just another workday, and low-income workers are the least likely to receive paid holidays, according to a HuffPost article sourcing recent U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data. Nearly one in four workers did not have Labor Day off with pay, and 23% of private-sector workers don’t get paid holidays off; around the same number don’t receive any paid vacation time, the article says. 

And federal unemployment benefits to help keep people afloat during the pandemic officially expired this Labor Day, or possibly earlier, depending on the state you’re in (26 states ended benefits before the September 6th cutoff). This will affect around 11 million people, according to a CNBC article. You can read articles about the loss of benefits for residents of different states, such as this one about Florida from the Miami Herald and another on New York from the New York Times. 

Going back to the workplace 

For many workers, the return to work is a bit up in the air, thanks to the Delta variant of COVID-19. More than a third of remote workers (around 36%) are still waiting on their employers’ return to work strategy, says this CNBC article sourcing a survey of around 3,000 American workers conducted by LinkedIn in July. Many organizations and companies are pushing back their dates for returning to the office, as well as reinstated indoor mask guidance from the CDC and vaccine mandates for federal workers have created more uncertainty. Almost a quarter of the workers surveyed say they don’t want to return to the office at all and 13% say they “don’t currently have access to transportation for commuting that feels safe to them,” the article says. 

This article from the New York Times offers tools from experts to help mitigate anxiety over returning to work amid the Delta variant. 

“For those who developed a mental health condition over the course of the pandemic, or whose existing disorders became exacerbated after a prolonged period of fear and isolation, working from home may have offered a refuge. The coping mechanisms many have cultivated — stepping out for air to soothe a panic attack, practicing a quick meditation to calm racing thoughts — will be harder to carry out under the fluorescent lights of an open-plan office,” the article says. 

And for parents, return-to-work anxiety has an additional layer. Check out this other NYT article on navigating work schedules and asking for flexibility as a parent. 

Event: workshop on recruiting & retaining the rural workforce

The USDA Rural Development and members of the Rural Workforce Innovation Network will host a workshop on Thursday, September 16 at 3:00 PM  (Eastern Time) on resources for rural communities to recruit and retain workers through placemaking. For more information and to register, click here. 


"As we face challenges of growing levels of wage and income inequality, hazardous working conditions in the midst of COVID, there are lessons we can learn from the past.” — University of Virginia history professor Claudrena Harold, in NPR

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