My dad was a landscaper at @VillanovaU when I was growing up. When he became too injured to continue he stayed with the union as a custodian until the job nearly killed him.

Watching his experience as a blue-collar worker there taught me two lasting lessons that have a HUGE effect on how I deal with my employees and coworkers.


First - my dad gave a shit. He read voraciously, studied his craft, and worked harder than anyone probably should. He truly cared for the campus and it's students and his mark is still all over that campus decades after he put his spade and pruners down.

Nothing made him angry faster than someone being careless in the care of his campus. Nothing gave him more joy than a simple word of appreciation from a student.

Dad taught me the Delco work ethic. A combination of professional nerdery, pride, and forgetting about self-care. It's not a trait I recommend other try to exhibit... but it helped me survive the military and is largely responsible for my career as an engineer.

Second - I learned the horrific personal cost when an employer mistreats laborers. Now that my dad is retired I can say it out loud without fear of retribution against him - @VillanovaU treats it's laborers like dirt. Dad did a good job of hiding exactly how bad it was... as a student it was impossible to ignore.

As a student I listened to the way supervisors talked about and treated the people who emptied their trash, served their food, and watched their doors. I watched understaffed teams pull backbreaking shifts trying to keep up with the need. I watched privileged students joke about it. I watched people talk about the cost and get excited over the prospect of replacing employees with an Aramark contract.

As a son I watched as my dad shoveled sidewalks in blizzards, worked in the "black flag" conditions for hours without a break, slept on floors when shifts were too long to make it home, and rushed back to work after numerous injuries.

He lives a life of chronic pain and organ failure now - and it's not hard to directly tie any and all of that back to specific decisions made by managers who cared more about financial than human cost.

Labor Day is about people like him. It's a reminder of the struggle to be treated fairly in return for hard work. Party and celebrate that today - but keep it in mind as you walk around this week. Thank the laborers around you. Appreciate their work. You'd be surprised what it can mean.

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