Dr. Martin Luther King once said, “All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity…” On this Labor Day it’s interesting to note that many of the heroes of the CoronaVirus Pandemic are laborers we seldom celebrate. Sure the first responders, doctors and nurses are lauded for their heroism, but what of the grocery store workers, truck drivers, and laborers in our vast food chain. These workers are seldom placed on the pedestal of societal ardor like those aforementioned first responders. 

The American industrial engine has avoided completely stalling out in large part due to the efforts of a workforce long taken for granted. Those of us fortunate enough to continue working online owe all of these workers a debt of gratitude. They have kept us fed by continuing their efforts despite the call to quarantine. 

The history of Labor Day reminds us of an America where workers once toiled 18 hours a day in dangerous conditions. Today, American workers are much better off. However, the obvious divide between white collar and blue collar workers has never been more stark. 

All segments of labor have been hard hit by the pandemic. However, many white collar workers have been able to segue to home offices and virtual meeting rooms, while blue collar workers have been facing the reality of serving the public’s need for essential goods since the outset. 

On Labor Day 2020, all workers, but especially those who have continued to supply American with basic needs, deserve our admiration and respect. These workers are poorly compensated for their labor. Despite that, they have bravely faced the pandemic and allowed the sputtering economic engine of America to avoid a complete collapse. 

At Meaning-Centered Leadership we agree with Dr King’s statement about the dignity inherent in labor that serves humanity. In order to honor the dignity of the worker, leaders must embrace a leadership style which supports that inherent dignity through engagement, empowerment, and expertise. By focusing on these important touchpoints of building meaning, leaders can honor their workforce everyday.