March 6, 1930 – thousands demonstrate for unemployment insurance in Union Square and nationwide – led by the communists. Did you think government just gave it to you? Wake up and smell the coffee.
It’s Labor Day!
End of Summer, back to school, put away the barbecue in New England, last day for white shoes in Alabama, three day shopping weekend!
Honoring labor!! Yaay!
The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. Where else? It became a federal holiday in 1894, when, after a number of workers were shot down by their own government during the Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland made reconciliation with the labor movement a top political priority. Workers were pissed; seems the government had a habit of shooting down strikers. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike – and the gunning down of workers.
Amazing how quickly government can work when it is scared shitless.
May Day 1953. Mom, me, my 2 brothers and a friend who lived in our building at school May Day celebration.
The September date was chosen as Cleveland was concerned that aligning an American labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would remind American workers of the Haymarket Affair when American workers were also shot down by their own government. Besides, May Day was too “socialist” All 50 U.S. states have made September Labor Day a holiday – even Texas.
Anyone notice any “honoring” of labor lately?
Who are the members of the “working class” we supposedly “honor” on “Labor Day”? Meet anyone who calls him or herself “working class” lately? If you have then he or she is probably a pinko commie/anarchist.
We like to think we have three classes of folks – the super rich, the “middle class” and the “poor”.
Everyone thinks they are in the shrinking “middle class” – from those washing dishes to a Wall Streeter making a couple of hundred grand a year. Nobody wants to be “poor” i.e. unemployed for long periods, although we have more officially poor now than we have had in decades. And millions of the poor work full time.
Does anyone call themselves a member of the “working class”? By definition everyone who doesn’t live on his wealth and has to work for a living is working class but no one considers himself a “worker”.
And the Wall Streeter making that $175G a year, who could be laid off tomorrow for any reason or no reason, thinks he has nothing in common with the guy washing dishes. The banker doesn’t think he’s a “worker” He’s “white collar”. He’s middle class, even if he has only two weeks worth of savings and is in debt up to his eyes. He’s bought into the “American Dream” and feels no solidarity with all the others who have nothing to sell but their “labor”, either brain or brawn.
“Solidarity” is a “red” word. When he loses his job he will find out how much he has in common with the dish washer.
My old Italian father was a member of the International Hod Carriers Union – he knew what he was – a worker. He carried cement in a wheelbarrow to the brick layers. He had no illusions about being other than what he was. He wasn’t “middle class” or “white collar”. He had no way to make a living but to sell his labor. He knew he was a worker and in solidarity with all others who had no accumulated wealth to live on. Because of the union he earned a living wage. Mom was a stay at home mom. He had the dignity of knowing he could take care of his wife and three sons.
It was all he ever wanted. A fair wage, a little house, education and a future for his children; a comfortable old age.
Seems to me the Wall Streeter and the dish washer have much more in common than either thinks. Both are workers but have no consciousness of class. The banker thinks he is a cut above the dishwasher and the hod carrier – it’s when he loses his job, his whole identity, he finds out he is not.
Meanwhile, as we “honor” labor. attacks on private and public sector unions go on – seems like the best way to honor labor is to make absolutely sure that individual workers never band together to face the power of corporations or government on a more equal footing. That’s Red. Red is bad.
It’s perfectly reasonable for employers to have all the power over your livelihood and for you to have none. It is perfectly reasonable for employers to strive to lower wages and benefits as far as they can but not reasonable for workers to try to raise them. It is perfectly reasonable for employers to expect workers to do more with less each passing year. It is perfectly reasonable for workers in a company not to have a say on a corporate Board of Directors. That’s capitalism.
So what exactly are we honoring on Labor Day?
The New York Times headline on March 7, 1930 – the day after. As usual, the police attacked the demonstrators, injuring hundreds.
Labor Day no longer honors labor and hasn’t for decades. It is just the End of Summer – Back to School – Three Day holiday. Even the workers don’t honor it because maybe deep inside they know it’s a sham and most have no consciousness that they are “labor” anyway. Labor is dèclassè.
And the AFL/CIO have become pussy corporatists – collaborators with the corporations – rightist corporate “Democrats”. Sad indeed that there no longer is a real labor oriented American left.
It’s just a day off unless, of course, you have to work on Labor Day.
Attempting to abolish it might give some “middle class” folks some real class consciousness. Let’s rename it. How about “First Day of Christmas Season!” It will be good for the economy. Then you will know that neither corporations nor government give a rat’s ass about you, your job or your labor. Nobody cares if you work full time for wages below the federal poverty line.
Happy Labor Day!
Labor Day – 1909