The Laborer and the Economy…

3 Sep

The American Dream demands a fair chance for everyone

Labor Day was started in 1882 by labor unions, but it would be many more years before it would be recognized as a Federal Holiday. Oregon was the first state to recognize and honor Labor Day in 1887.  Finally in 1894, it became a national holiday on the first Monday in September under the Cleveland Administration.  Congress passed it unanimously, a very rare event indeed.

Reflecting back, the United States can proudly celebrate the influence of its labor unions and how they have helped to protect the too often marginalized and voiceless.  The Triangle Shirtwaist Company Fire proved there was still a great deal of work to be accomplished by the labor movement.  Labor Unions also worked to protect children and helped to establish an eight hour work day, fair wage laws, and breaks for safety and meals.

Sadly, America seems to be losing its appreciation of Labor Unions while privileging profit over people.  Thanks to President Clinton’s NAFTA and similar agreements as well as vulture capitalists like Mitt Romney, we find our country sending jobs to other countries where we exploit workers for pennies and then leave those countries to find even cheaper labor.

Even sadder is that when President Obama proposes work bills for the unemployed, all of the bills are met with categorical Republican Obstructionists. All this does is end up hurting the everyday worker in the Unites States.  I have to say it takes a great deal of chutzpah for people like Romney and Ryan to talk about solving issues of the economy when Ryan has been one of the architects of the Great Obstructionist Movement, privileging the rich while crushing and reducing the middle class.

On a personal note, it also saddens me that people like Romney and Ryan are working hard to allow companies like Chick-Fil-A to discriminate against the LGBTQ community and deny us employment for being gay.  At the Federal level, pointless votes are taken to repeal the Affordable Care Act, money is wasted defending the clearly unconstitutional DOMA, and the war on women has the House attacking birth control and Planned Parenthood. They bleat about jobs and the economy but do nothing, while at the state level the Scott Walkers are dismantling unions and isolating workers from the political process.

Labor Day isn’t just an excuse for a long weekend or a chance to grill an extra hot dog before autumn sets in. It’s a chance to reflect on the work that is done at all levels of our society and the value of all that labor. It’s a chance to celebrate the collaboration that makes work better and working conditions safer. In the words of the great Joe Hill (as sung by Billy Bragg, thanks to my husband for the choice of Bragg):

Now I long for the morning that they realise
Brutality and unjust laws can not defeat us
But who’ll defend the workers who cannot organise
When the bosses send their lackeys out to cheat us?

Money speaks for money, the Devil for his own
Who comes to speak for the skin and the bone
What a comfort to the widow, a light to the child

There is power in a Union.

Happy Labor Day to all of our brothers and sisters that have to work today and that have no pension, no health benefits, and are at the poverty line.

8 Responses to “The Laborer and the Economy…”

  1. Christine Noble September 3, 2012 at 4:08 pm #

    It saddens me how many people forget what this day is about. Too many treat it as an excuse to party. To me, it is far more solemn a day than Memorial Day (which unfortunately also gets the “gimmee my long weekend” treatment.)

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 3, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

      Well said, Christine. I am consistently sad at how Americans tend to suffer from a lack of history.

  2. nevercontrary September 3, 2012 at 4:09 pm #

    When the only things that matters is making money all else falls to the wayside. Even common decency.

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 3, 2012 at 4:45 pm #

      It is funny that you should use the phrase “common decency,” it is as though you were reading my mind. That is exactly how I felt.

  3. Will S. September 3, 2012 at 7:51 pm #

    A lot of people don’t want to remember the sacrifice of the labor movement throughout the years. It just makes them feel guilty about having a “fuck you I got mine” attitude.

    But we should always remember. I make my kids review the Ludlow Massacre every Labor Day. Never should the struggle be forgotten

    • Michael Hulshof-Schmidt September 4, 2012 at 7:24 am #

      Exceedingly well said, Will.

    • Jay September 4, 2012 at 1:16 pm #

      If my Dad or Mom had required me to re-read something each and every Labor Day, I assure you I would have resented my parents, the lesson I was forced to re-read, and the point of the lesson that was being crammed down my throat.

      I certainly grew weary of Luke’s account of the Xmas story after a dozen repetitions, and by analogy it is possible your kids might be feeling weary of the Ludlow, Massacre.

      Just something to consider, Will: ‘reactionary’ politics are sometimes literally a reaction based on petty resentments of one sort or another, and your required Labor Day readings might have the opposite effect upon your kids’ politics than you intend.

      • Will S. September 5, 2012 at 11:12 am #

        You make a good point, Jay. I’m not concerned with that so much, since it’s always tailored to keep the kids interested. Fortunately, my background in education prepared me for that.

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