I learned my work ethic from delivering newspapers. On this Labor Day, we should honor those who work hard every day

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A message from Australia went viral last week, centering on a mother who won’t let her 15-year-old son work part-time because she believes childhood should be light-hearted and without the burden of work that adults bring need face.

As expected, there was no shortage of backlash to this idea. And while I’m not inclined to judge the parenting choices of others, it reminded me of my own jobs as a teenager and why they were important to me, as they were to so many Americans.

For many of us, our first job as a teenager was a deep memory, opening up to us a previously hidden world of work, lacking the protection of family or school.

A mother who refuses her teenage son a job sparks debate: Is the work ethic overrated?

For me it was a paper walk on cool, still dark autumn mornings, the cracking of the plastic tape, the smell of the flyers and finally the not always so easy collection of the subscriber’s money.

stack of newspapers

Whether you’re delivering newspapers or working in retail, a first job helps instill a work ethic that can affect your entire career. (IStock)

Little did I know then that I was part of a long tradition: the first paperboy, 10-year-old Barney Flaherty, founded the industry in 1833 after responding to an ad in the New York Sun. And just like that, the brave Irish boy had launched a cultural phenomenon.

Throughout the remainder of the 19th century and into the 20th century, American society struggled to provide adequate work-life balance for youth. Child labor laws protected children from abuse but also provided exceptions for lighter part-time work.

It was about instilling a work ethic as well as economic opportunity for the youth, and it has tended to work.

We all know that a dollar earned ends up in our pocket very differently than a dollar given as its value is directly tied to our work.

The good news is that the number of 16-19 year olds who are either working or searching has risen to 37%, according to data from the Labor Department, which is the highest since 2019. The bad news is that these number in 1979 was 58%.

The societal result of this is that most people born in the early 1960s had some experience of manual or retail work, even those who went on to more prestigious professions.

They learned years ago that the wonders of the modern world didn’t just magically exist for them. They have been, and still are, tended to by people who shower after work, not before.

In 2020, amidst COVID-19, how many of today’s professionals have realized that they are not quite as important as they thought?

Group attractive teenage students in high school auditorium. rear view.

A mother’s plan not to let her teenage son go to work is a reminder of the importance of that first job. (iStock)

They saw plumbing workers and delivery men running the world from their living room laptops, which artificial intelligence could soon make them redundant, despite their degrees.

Yet today the American worker is still taken for granted. The working class, once considered the firm and moral backbone of the nation, is all but ridiculed by elites with soft, clean hands.

The left calls them idiots for not demanding socialism while sending workers’ taxpayer money to pay off student loans from universities that have a gender studies degree.


The right too often sends the message: If you’re not in the top 10%, a worthwhile individual who’s already cryptocurrency rich and aspiring to a private jet, what’s the point of it anyway?

It was about instilling a work ethic as well as economic opportunity for the youth, and it has tended to work. We all know that a dollar earned ends up in our pocket very differently than a dollar given as its value is directly tied to our work.

One of the best ways to combat these harmful attitudes is for teenagers of all income levels and walks of life to experience the pride and dignity that comes with working and serving others.

Now, on cool, still, and black September mornings, I write columns for newspapers instead of delivering them. And yet I know instinctively that my job is not possible without workers from electricians to janitors who actually make sure that everything works.


So let your child have that extra-curricular job, let them learn responsibility, pride, social skills in the workplace and perhaps most of all, respect for our country’s working class, which we are rightly celebrating at Labor Day.

And to all the hard-working Americans who can kick back a little today? Well, I hope you enjoy it and accept my humble thanks.


Rick Schindler

Rick Schindler is a Worldtimetodays U.S. News Reporter based in Canada. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Rick Schindler joined Worldtimetodays in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing: RickSchindler@worldtimetodays.com.

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