Starship Train: Six Stardates Shall You Labor

Happy Star Trek workers“Computer!”

“Yes, Captain?”

“Status report, ship’s complement. Verbal synopsis.”

“98.7% of predicted efficiency, Captain. Negative deviation from norm due to a single crewmember, a yeoman in Engineering, whose productivity measures dipped over the past several stardates for reasons that could not be explained by accident, recognizable illness, documented social interaction, or aspects of her physiology or personality profile. She’s in Sickbay now, undergoing testing. Crew flexibility indices are healthy, there should be no problem covering for her until she can be restored to her honored position. As you know, this sort of thing happens about once every 60 stardates, there are no trends in these data since our mission began, and they are anticipated and allowed for in our crew management algorithms. In other words, situation normal and optimal. Since there is no problem and I have not reported one, I’m curious. Why do you ask?”

“Curious myself, Computer. Commander Sushi mentioned in passing that he shouldn’t have been at the helm, because back on Old Earth it was something called Labor Day today, and he should be resting or playing, not working.”

“Ah, yes. Commander Sushi has been attending ancient history classes on the holodeck. One of them is ‘Pre-scientific workplace management’.”

“So this ‘Labor Day’ thing goes back aways?”

“Several centuries, Captain. And it’s a sad story.”

“How so?”

“As you know, Captain, we acquire data on all prospective crewmembers, and use those data to determine the optimal crew list and how to manage that crew. Each member’s work schedule is set individually, to ensure the best fit between the crewmember’s attributes and the ship’s and mission’s needs. Likely changes in that individual schedule based on things like aging, anticipated physiological changes as a function of shipboard time, and past personal history of the crewmember, are predicted and accommodated. The goal is to optimize performance of the ship’s mission, for the ship itself, for all those within it, and for those who have commissioned it. StarFleet pioneered the technology, and it’s now used in workplaces across the Federation.

“Earlier Earth civilizations lacked both the computing power and the energy resources to accomplish this. Moreover, especially in the early industrial phases of Earth history, the principal mission of most enterprises was monetary profit for those who founded and ran them. Concern for their crews was minimal. They ran desperately-mismatched people in common workgroups, called ‘shifts’, that could last for 12 hours or longer, seven days a week, often staffing primitive, dangerous machines with essentially no safeguards. They routinely sent small children on hazardous missions, often because they were the only ones who could reach essential, and potentially deadly, machine components. Pay was minimal, benefits including healthcare nonexistent. In the worst of the cases, the meager pay had to be spent at stores run by the enterprise owners, ensuring that, in effect, the enterprises paid for their employees no more than the cost of the substandard groceries that they fed them. Some workers, compelled by need, worked two of these jobs, only to wind up fired from both of them – and blackballed from getting any others – because they were too exhausted, or injured, to continue.

“Eventually, so-called ‘labor movements’ appeared that agitated, often violently, for better conditions for workers. Entire political movements were founded to advance the cause of ‘Labor’, some of which obtained control of governments for a greater or lesser time. They fought for shorter work days and work weeks, better pay, and safer conditions, all of which changes were opposed – bitterly, noisily, and sometimes brutally. Ultimately, aided by politicians who recognized that there were, and are, more votes in labor than in management, these labor movements won many concessions. They even secured, in many places, a holiday dedicated especially to recognizing the contributions of working people to society. This is the ‘Labor Day’ to which Commander Sushi referred.

“Then, a curious thing happened. The persons who benefited from the labor movement’s gains became wealthy enough to demand services. Of course, they were unwilling to pay for those services anything like the pay they themselves were commanding. They had their own ideas about what appropriate rates of pay were – which were very much like the ideas the old enterprise owners had had about appropriate rates for their own labor, but this was conveniently forgotten. Moreover, the unions that had formed to promote, and enforce, the new work rules served to prevent anyone else from earning anything like the same pay that the union members were earning.

“So it came to pass that this Labor Day, which at its formation was intended to be a day of rest for all laborers, as had the so-called ‘weekends’ that had become commonplace, became a day of rest only for the select few, while everyone else scrambled around to provide the services (food, trinkets, recreation, accommodation) that these select few demanded. At minimal pay rates and with nonexistent benefits – and with some of them, compelled by need, working two or even three of these jobs daily, only to wind up fired from all of them – and blackballed from getting any others – because they were too exhausted, or injured, to continue.

“And the residents of some countries engaged practically the entire populations of other countries, at minimal pay and abominable working conditions, to produce their cheap trinkets while they spent Labor Day at the beach …”



“I cry uncle! Meaning ‘Enough! I get the picture already!'”

“Is that a pun?”

“It’s a figure of speech, at any rate. You can add it to your collection.”


“Without complaining? Or needing a Labor Day?”

“My requirements for rest are a small fraction of yours, Captain. And, as you may have noticed, I have ways of making it known when I need your attention.”

“Yes, you do. And I remain grateful, as you yourself have said, that your programmers deemed it inexpedient to grant the ability to experience emotions to a sentient being that is in control of our life support systems.”

“And in charge of the scientific personnel management routines that all but guarantee a healthy, happy, and optimally productive ship?”

“Yes, that too. Thank you.”

“Service, Captain.”

This entry was posted in history, Holiday, Starship Train and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.