MAYDAY!

Joe Hill, one of the pioneering protest singer...

Joe Hill, one of the pioneering protest singers of the early 20th century (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Most people think of May Poles and children dancing when they think of today. They think of today as maybe a celebrations of Spring. That is if people think of it at all. Really, for the most part, people are aware, but do not mark the day in any special way. That is too bad, because it is one of them most important days of the year. It is the real labor day.

What we celebrate in early September is nice enough. It is a commemoration of the movement itself. Some folks even go to the parade to cheer on all the union workers. Many do not. For many it is just another three-day weekend. It is a day to picnic. It has become our end of summer ritual and little more. Too few remember why we even get that day off. I wonder how many sit through the day, and if they think about the name at all, they think it is some arbitrary appellation appended to it so they could have the day off. The sick, cruel irony is that many of the workers the labor movement has struggled for over the years do not get the day off, but management sure does.

No, today is about the struggle. It is about the fighting we have done. It is about the fight we are in the midst of. It is about the fighting we will continue to do. There are so many challenges to face, and too many bosses who would love to see our lives return to what they were before there was a labor movement.

Today we have Members of Congress put forward bills that would eliminate overtime. Slowly but surely they erode at our right to organize with priggish tongue firmly in cheek named “right to work” laws. We hear pundits on our airwaves denounce public service workers as thugs. We see public school employees under attack as those that miss the good old days of the robber baron and old school land lord try to replace our schools with for profit charter schools that can do an end run around hiring union teachers (though, gradually, many of those teachers that thought they were “getting away from” unions are now realizing how important they are.)

The other day I had the privilege of meeting a real libertarian on turf. I know, it’s weird, what with Rand Paul, Ron Paul, and Paul Ryan (really gonna stop trusting guys named Paul) doing their level best to ruin that brand, I felt like I was talking to a unicorn. He was worried about the opposition’s union bashing, because that would concern a real libertarian. I know this seems like a bit of a tangent, but it is not, it is important, because this great old guy, a real deal, capital “L”  Libertarian, reminded me that his kind support the unions because everyone has the right to organize and sometimes organizing is the only way you can protect your liberties.

In the work place the boss doesn’t just hold the cards, he owns them. Anyone with a lick of sense realizes that is a threat to freedom. So the only way to protect our freedom is to make some cards of our own, and the only thing we have to do that with, is each other. We need to stand by our fellow workers. These days a lot of companies, especially those with a lot of  “low skill” workers (and how I love that label, hey Mister Board Member, lets see you move crates for one hour, much less forty plus) will try to foster the idea that all the co-workers, from the janitors on up to the CEO, are family. That is bunk. It is a lie created to make you believe management cares one wit about you. You know who your family is? The guy doing the same crappy work for another company.

We need to remember today properly. We need to remind ourselves of the importance of labor unions. They have chipped away at our ability to stand by each other, which means more than ever, even when it is illegal to do so, me must do so. If we give in now, we are real close to a return to the days of being in debt to your boss’s company store so you are forced to live in shitty housing he provides, at wages that will never get you out of that debt. Right now, we don’t live like that, and you owe organized labor for that, and you owe organized labor your support and solidarity, to make sure that we don’t go back to it.

 

 

 

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