The irony of a labor shortage on Labor Day

by Jessica Garvin

I cannot be the only person who finds it ironic that on Monday, we celebrated Labor Day across the United States, yet we have an overwhelming shortage of workers across the country. In every single industry from healthcare to hospitality, people are simply not working. When the pandemic began and businesses were closed, I completely understood the thought that we needed to assist families by providing additional benefits through the state or federal government to keep them fed and housed. However, I’m a firm believer that in most situations, it’s time to cut off the gravy train and get people back to work.

I do realize there are special circumstances that may prevent individuals from going back to work at this time. For example, one person who contacted me about losing her job when the pandemic started had quickly enrolled in an educational program full-time to seek a new career path. This young woman would have needed to drop out of the program, as evening classes were not available, and risked losing all that she had invested to complete the coursework. This woman was also a single mom of two young children and has had difficulty finding childcare in the evenings or on the weekends, which created a problem for obtaining a job after class each day. Another man lost his job in the oil and gas industry as a truck driver, but because his health has still not improved from when he had COVID, he has been unable to be released by his physician to go back to work due to the safety considerations of his position.

Labor Day began in the late nineteenth century as a result of labor activists desiring a holiday to celebrate and recognize the contributions that workers had made across our country, and the impact they have had to our prosperity in America. There are two individuals who have challenged one another for the title of “Founder” of the Labor Day holiday: Peter J. McGuire, a carpenter, and Matthew Maguire, a machinist. In 1909, the American Federation of Labor announced a resolution to make the Sunday preceding Labor Day as “Labor Sunday” to celebrate the spiritual connection between workers and their labor.

I’m of the opinion that the American laborers of the nineteenth century are one of the largest contributors to what became “The American Dream”. The labor movement in this country encouraged foreigners to move to America to work at providing a better life for themselves and their families. Today, we see this dream still alive in many areas of our country, but especially in our state. Oklahoma’s motto is “Labor Omnia Vincit”, or “Labor Conquers All Things”. Derived from a book written by Roman poet, Virgil, the motto is said to reflect the type of people who live in this state.

When people think of Oklahoma, they think of the roughnecks of the oil industry, the farmers and ranchers, the men and women who have survived tornados and dust storms, and the first responders who pulled rubble off of survivors at the Oklahoma City Bombing. Our state has a rich tradition of survival and hard work, so to see restaurants and convenience stores closing early, “Now Hiring” signs on every street corner, and online advertisements every time I open my phone or computer is sad, but also alarming. In order for our state to survive, we have to do what we’ve always done: pull up our bootstraps and get to work.

A Senate interim study will be held on Tuesday, Sept. 21 at 9:30 a.m. in Room 230 to study what is preventing Oklahomans from returning to the workforce. It will be conducted by the Senate Business, Commerce and Tourism Committee. I’m anxious to hear their findings.

If you have any questions or concerns on legislative matters, please contact me at the Capitol. Please write to Senator Jessica Garvin, State Capitol, 2300 N. Lincoln Blvd. Room 237, Oklahoma City, OK, 73105, email me at or call (405) 521-5522.

Comanche Times
United for Oklahoma - September