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Episode 128: One Day for Labor

Labor Day and how to be more efficient with Mak and G
Episode 128: One Day for Labor


Today, Mak and G look at the origins of Labor Day, how working conditions have changed since the 1800s, and why some countries are more efficient than others…


With Labor Day here, the summer is coming to an end but it’s not all bad as it’s also time for the NFL season to really start.


Today, Mak and G are looking at the origins of Labor Day and where the traditions around it came from.


We also discuss how working conditions have changed since the 1800s, what GDP really is, and why some countries are more efficient than others…


“In the US we’re lucky to have computers, robots, and other stuff that makes it easier to be efficient.” – Mak


“If you have the right tools, are trained better, and well-rested you’ll work faster, waste less, and make more products with each employee.” – Mak

Time Stamps:

00:24 – Why do people stop wearing white after Labor Day?

01:03 – Where did the US Labor Day originate from?

02:19 – The difficult working conditions in the 1800s, including child workers.

03:47 – How workers drive the economy and what GDP is.

04:17 – Why some countries are more efficient than others, and have higher GDPs..

05:15 – Which countries are the most efficient.


Connect with Ben Jones:



MAK: I can’t believe it’s already September, which means Labor Day.  Time to close the pool stop wearing white, and for many, it’s time for the NFL season to really start.

GRANT: Uncle Tony always looks forward to the start of the Colts season. Time to paint his beard blue, and then mom starts to root for the Bears.  By the way, what’s that white thing all about?

MAK: Supposedly, if you were rich 100 or so years ago, you’d go away for the entire summer. You’d pack a lot of white clothes to keep cool. Air conditioning was invented in 1902, but it wasn’t really used in a lot of places until at least the 1950s. So, when you came back from your summer break, you simply put away your whites until the next summer. 

GRANT: So, that became a rule for different people in a different time.

MAK: You got that right G.  People still think of no whites or pool after Labor Day and the beginning of the NFL season.  But, wasn’t it all about “Labor”?  People working, or doing labor in the fields, stores, warehouses, factories, and other places?

GRANT: That’s exactly what it’s about.  Canada started it in 1872 and we celebrated our first almost 10 years later in 1882.  That’s almost 140 years ago, and it all started in New York City.

MAK: Historians, can’t figure out whether the cofounder of the American Federation of Labor or a guy who operated a machine in a factory started the whole idea of Labor Day.  The first guy was Peter Mc-Quire, with a “Q” and the second was Matthew Ma-guire with a “G”.  Isn’t that funny? Shared credit because nobody could keep their names straight.

GRANT: That is funny.  But, I’m glad to have the extra day. Either way, President Grover Cleveland established it as a federal holiday 12 years later in 1894. About 23 states already adopted their own. Now, the whole country celebrates it on the first Monday of September.

MAK: They chose September because there was a huge hole in holidays between the 4th of July and Thanksgiving. So, we needed something to “stick in there” to look forward to.

GRANT: Works for me. Do you know how dad always says life was harder when he was young?

MAK: Yeah, I love when he says (in dad’s voice) “I walked both ways uphill in the snow”.  How’s that even possible?

GRANT: It’s not. He’s losing his marbles.  It WAS tougher in the 1800’s because people were working wayyyyyy to hard.  The average American worked 12-HOURS PER DAY, 7-DAYS A WEEK. Plus some children started working around 5-6 years old in factories and mines.

MAK:  Many were treated as slaves, doing dangerous work. They worked on machines because they could crawl into small places.  In coal mines, they broke up coal. 

GRANT: Quite a few lost fingers or their arms doing the dangerous work. In the coal mines, many would get lung cancer. A lot of girls worked in “match” factories with harsh chemicals and would lose their teeth. Their teeth!

MAK: That’s TERRIBLE. But, in 1916, the Adamson Act was passed to establish the eight-hour workday, which was better. Some groups of workers also came together to form Unions, to fight against bad working conditions, better pay, and other things. It got better over time for many.

GRANT: This change seems much better. I think the biggest union in the country now is the teachers union. I think they came together to make OUR “working conditions” worse. But, we could relax over Labor Day and have a barbecue like 2 out of 3 people do this weekend.  And, before COVID about 1 out of 3 saw a movie. Lots of “R and R” going on. Rest and Relaxation.

MAK: Labor day is more than the end of hot dog season.  If you didn’t know, we eat 7 billion hot dogs over the summer.  Anyway, we need to talk about how workers drive the economy.  Economists study the economy and spend A LOT of time looking at workers.

GRANT: Don’t economists use workers to understand how rich a country is? It’s called GED.

MAK: Grant, the GED is a test used to tell if you learned what a high school graduate should’ve learned.  We’re talking about GDP or Gross Domestic Product?

GRANT: Minor mistake.  So, what’s this GDP thing? Sounds complicated.

MAK: I thought so do, but it’s a way of counting all the products made by workers in a year.  Some countries can make more stuff with each employee because they’re really efficient.

GRANT: Being efficient means you cut down on wasted time, money, or energy.  In the US, we’re lucky to have computers, robots, and other stuff, that makes it much easier to be efficient.  Having the right tools makes all the difference.  When dad runs to the store several times to complete a job here, he wastes lots of time and money and isn’t very productive. It’s kind of like your cold last week.  You produced a lot of dirty tissues without wasting a lot of time!!!

MAK: Thanks for that. I bet if I counted, you were MUCH MORE productive than I was.

GRANT: How come I knew you were going to say that!!! That is exactly my point.  Some countries can produce more if they have better factories, equipment, are better-educated, have the right balance of work and leisure, and other stuff.

MAK: You did that REALLY well.  So, if you have the right tools, are trained better and well-rested, you’ll work faster, waste less and make more products, with each employee.

GRANT: You got it. The US isn’t the most efficient. Ireland seems to be first, with Norway and Switzerland in 2nd and 3rd. We’re around 6th.  But, since we have more workers, we do have the largest GDP because it’s how much we produce, not how efficient we are. Can I suggest that we unionize just for today and cut this podcast short?

MAK: I’m right there with you bro!! Labor Day weekend is to celebrate the worker.

GRANT: So, we should get a break, and enjoy the rest of our weekend. Maybe we should go to Waffle House to Celebrate.  It was opened on Labor Day in 1955.

MAK: I do love a good waffle!!!  Thanks for being here, and we’ll see you next week for more…

GRANT/MAK: Money with Mak & G.  Bye!!

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