Jackie Gingrich Cushman

This weekend marks Labor Day. For the more than 25 million Americans who are unemployed, underemployed or discouraged, the idea of celebrating Labor Day must be ironic. Alanis Morissette's song "Isn't it Ironic," reminds us that life is often filled with irony: "An old man turned ninety-eight," notes the tune. "He won the lottery and died the next day. It's a black fly in your Chardonnay. It's a death-row pardon two minutes too late. And isn't it ironic...don't you think?"

Isn't it ironic that we are celebrating Labor Day when we have so many that would like to be laboring at work, but are not.

The working conditions of the late 19th century, when the first Labor Day event was held, were very different from those of today. Industrial workers often worked 12 hours a day, six or seven days a week, just to get by. Young children often worked in dangerous, industrial jobs. This environment led to the labor movement and a demand for better conditions and better pay.

Today, overall, we have better labor conditions in our country, but we have a lack of jobs. We have 25 million Americans who would like to be working, but are not (unemployed, underemployed and discouraged workers). This is a personal financial tragedy and a national economic tragedy, but also could be a great opportunity.

If we can just figure out how to get those 25 million people back to work, we would have reason to celebrate Labor Day. Imagine 25 million people, creating new products, new ideas and new processes. Whether it is cutting grass, reconciling bank statements, scooping ice cream, cleaning floors or providing strategic advice. We all should strive to be able to say: My work has value.

Jackie Gingrich Cushman

Jackie Gingrich Cushman is a speaker, syndicated columnist, socialpreneur, and author of "The Essential American: 25 Documents and Speeches Every American Should Own," and co-author of “The 5 Principles for a Successful Life: From Our Family to Yours”.