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Monday, 1 September 2014

Happy Labor Day

Happy Labor Day

Today is Labor Day in the United States and Canada. On this day we see the unofficial end of summer, the start of a new school year, the end of the vacation season, and we have a weekend of just good fun. We go to fish fries, barbecues, pitch horseshoes, drink a few beers, take the boat out (if we own one) or have our last fling on the beach, or maybe go camping. Regardless of what we do, we want to have fun doing it.

Maybe we should take the time to reflect on all those who make this weekend and its attendant fun possible and give them their proper thanks. The line of those to whom we owe thanks is a mite longer than most of us believe it is.

We can start with those in our families, and our friends, who are always there to care and share and make every weekend that much better.

OK, now let's look at some others without whom this Labor Day weekend would not be possible.

There are men and women on-duty to assure us that the Internet, water, electricity, water, gas, propane, sewage, and telephone systems are delivering that upon which we have become so dependent – and so accustomed.

Then we have a group that I call the “public safety services:” police, fire, EMT, and emergency room medical services. And let's not forget the nurses who staff our hospitals, rehabs, and nursing homes this weekend and every weekend.

Today you might need groceries or gas. You can buy it because there is someone at work to fill your needs. You can probably go to many other stores to shop because someone is there, for the profit motive to be sure, but they profit from serving the public.

Labor Day is a relatively new celebration. Saint Patrick's Day was first celebrated in America in 1737. The first Labor Day was celebrated in America on September

5, 1882.

The gathering of working people to parade and celebrate their labors was not looked upon by the police, factory owners, industrialists, and other oligarchs of that day as benign. Follow this link and you'll see:

It took the organizing efforts of champions of labor like Terrence V. Powderly,

Terrence V. Powderly

Samuel Gompers, 

John L. Lewis, Eugene V. Debs, Mother Jones, Walter Reuther, and A. Philip Randolph to bring organized business and management to the bargaining table.

It also took the blood and lives of men and women in actions like the Lattimer Massacre, the Hay Market Riots, Pullman Strike, Homestead Strike,

Anthracite Strikes, and the Ford Motor Company Strike of 1937. In those days the state governments and legislatures were controlled by the large corporations and it was a common practice to meet strikers with armed troops, like the State Police, the Coal and Iron Police (in Northeastern Pennsylvania), a company's private police force, Pinkerton detectives and agents, paid strikebreakers, or a posse of whomever was available for deputation by the local sheriff.

Coal miners, steel workers, auto workers, Pullman car porters, locomotive engineers and other railway workers, textile workers, longshoremen – you name it, they probably had a job action.

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”

  • Frederick Douglass
It was a long, hard, bloody journey from a workplace in which your children as young as 5 or 6 worked at the same place as you did, working a 12-hour day, 6 days a week, with no sick leave, vacation, health insurance. Back then there wasn't even Workers' Compensation Insurance to cover at-work injuries. You were on your own without a safety net of any kind.

So today take a minute and think of how different life would be without things like a living wage for a fair day's work, a reasonably safe workplace, job security, paid holidays, paid sick leave, and fringe benefits.

The fight's not over yet. There are still so many of us working to raise a family or pay our rent on multiple minimum wage jobs with no benefits. Let's not forget them.

Thanks for taking the time to let me share these thoughts with you.


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