This year Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, falls on September 6. For over 125 years the United States has celebrated Labor Day as a tribute to working men and women. More than half of the states in America had already been celebrating the labor movement by 1894, the year that then President Grover Cleveland declared the first Monday in September a national holiday recognizing the worth of labor throughout the country.
“If you were a factory worker in the 1880s, you were probably toiling away at your job for an average of 60 hours a week, and it wasn’t unheard of for textile laborers in New York to make only 75 cents a day, which was a paltry sum, even for the time. To bring attention to these unfair working conditions, labor organizers coordinated the first Labor Day parade on Tuesday, September 5, 1882.” Mental Floss Magazine.
The labor movement, then, was born from the idea of making work fairer for the workers who were putting so much of their energy into producing for the economy often making barely enough money to feed their family.
Here at Wayne Township we are very much for people having good jobs that provide them with a livable income and that give them fulfillment and an opportunity to grow in a career. Two of our programs are aimed directly toward these goals: One is our Employment Program that links employers with openings to our job-seeking clients. The second is our Workfare Program that gives selected organizations and our client partners the chance to “try out” an employment position.
Workfare has a long history in Indiana township government. Back in the mid-1800s, able-bodied persons who received township assistance were required to work in the community to give something back. Assistance recipients chopped firewood and/or worked in the farms and gardens for those unable to do these tasks themselves.
Through giving back to the community, persons receiving assistance were able to accept financial help while maintaining their dignity through work. This same spirit still exists at township trustee offices across the state.
Today’s Wayne Township clients become involved in our Workfare program if they are not otherwise employed and are able to work. Eligible clients are assigned “workdays,” at various non-profit or governmental agencies. The number of workdays assigned depends on the amount of township assistance the client has received.
Workfare clients provide a variety of services for the agencies to which they are assigned. Some work in the Wayne Township office, assisting with cleaning, lawn care and other projects that need to be done around our office. When clients begin with the Workfare program, they go through an orientation where they learn about appropriate work attire and conduct when going out on a job.
The Workfare program benefits both the clients and the agencies for which they are working. The agencies get extra help at no cost to them, and the clients learn skills that translate into gainful employment. Many clients have gone on to permanent jobs at the agencies they started at through Workfare. It’s a win-win for everyone.
Our office will be closed to celebrate Labor Day on September 6. While in the past we have had a booth at the Labor Day Picnic that organized labor puts on at Headwaters Park, this year the pandemic has once again put a damper on that celebration. Due to the current increasing transmission rates of the Delta variant of COVID-19 in Allen County, the NEIBT 2021 picnic committee had to make the regrettable but wise decision not to hold the event this year. Attendance at the Labor Picnic sometimes reaches over 5000 people, and after folks have been cooped up for so long, possibly even bigger crowds could be expected. We will miss attending this great event, but we also applaud the committee for making a responsible decision for our community’s health and safety.