An Open Letter From a Laborer of Labor Day

When I’m not at my weekday gig at the Peninsula Pulse, I can be found hauling pizzas between the tight tables at Wild Tomato in Fish Creek. I joke with tourists about the busy season, what it’s like to live in Door County and how, with a job at a print newspaper and a degree in English, I need to pay the bills somehow. They always laugh at that joke. Then they order another beer.

For most restaurants and retail stores, Labor Day weekend is the climax of summer. Everything that makes the busy season both beautiful and terrible collides in a mess of high sales, stress and a final push of tourists still holding onto summer.

By now, most of that helpful summer staff has gone back to their dorm rooms, leaving fewer, albeit more experienced, employees to pick up extra shifts. Although already working overtime, those extra hours are part of the final big payday before the season starts winding down and we pick them up with a smile.

But behind the 12-hour workdays, shirtless tourists stumbling up after one final day of drinking on the boat and our occasional desire to trade places with them, there is a light at the end of the three-day tunnel.

On Monday, Sept. 5, Wild Tomato closes at 9 pm instead of the typical 10 pm. While I’m sure the decision has more to do with economics and profitability than employee sentiment, excited anticipation for that day courses through every beer poured and pizza cut throughout the weekend. More than one month ago, I specifically requested to work on the Monday of Labor Day just to be a part of that sacred moment when we get to decide that the season is winding down. Since then, coworker Morgan Rusnak and I look wistfully out the window as we count down the days. As of this writing, we have just one week to go.

It’s a bit ironic that the day whose origins are cemented in giving the blue-collar laborers a day off has become the day where the few remaining workers in Door County’s tourism industry need to be on. Then again, if I wanted to have a three-day weekend to celebrate a day off of working, I would find a different job than a restaurant worker in a tourism destination.

Being tied so closely to the industry that sustains my family, friends and coworkers has its own value and the feeling that we’re in this together is a common refrain. For that, I’ll willingly trade three days. Being able to pay my entire month’s rent after one shift and knowing that a long, cold winter of even further reduced hours makes that trade a bit easier.

To my fellow tourism-industry laborers, I congratulate you on making it this far and hope you appreciate the final days of good money, summer staff and late nights after work when the weather is still warm to sit by the outside tap lines with your shift-beer.

To the tourists reading this, I wish you a relaxing weekend as you celebrate both your hard work and the end of the summer season in this place the rest of us call home. Stop by Wild Tomato in Fish Creek any time this weekend and I will be there, happy to see you and just as happy to see you leave.

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