A Day Without Labor

I love Labor Day.

The Fourth of July is bullshit; Christmas perpetuates the Greatest Lie Ever Told; but Labor Day is simple and honest:  Let’s take a day off to celebrate that we get to take days off.

Most of us don’t know where the fuck it came from — “Labor Day” —  maybe it’s communist or socialist like May Day?

It’s not.  It’s came from the original American trait — impertinence.  Push us around too much, we say “fuck this shit” and rebel. Sometimes with violence or war; sometimes we just quit working.

Before unions, most “workers” toiled 11-12 hour days, 7 days a week.  Factories were full of kids.  Some dads couldn’t get work, because the factory could hire the kids for half.

child-labor
Stole the image from this site: http://www.historyplace.com/unitedstates/childlabor/index.html

Enjoy your work-free childhood and weekends?  Thank your grandparents and great-grandparents who paid for that freedom with strikes.  Back when they were real strikes and usually  ended in riots and death.  We celebrate those who died in war. We should tear down all those confederate clowns and put up statues to those who tried to make work better.

Don’t get me wrong, work still sucks.

But weekends, 8-hour days, fair wages, health insurance, due process in firing… were all demanded, won and perpetuated by unions.

Since the 70’s, corporations and bosses have been whittling away at those gains.  The gig economy is no accident.  It’s “the plan” when bosses can do as they wish — hire only who is needed only when needed — no benefits.

I’ve been on all sides of the “Union”.  I’ve worked when others were on strike. (After all the screaming, I thought I would literally grow a scab — never did).  I’ve paid union dues and walked a picket line.  And I’ve worked in management and asked people to work “over-time” and hired tons of contractors instead of staff.

In 1992, I walked a picket line in Phoenix. We teachers were fighting for a decent wage.

“Teachers suck at strikes,” one teacher said.  “We stand around and talk.  We need to get some of the teamsters in here and scare the shit out of these people.”

Our 1990’s “strike” didn’t do much.  We did a lot of standing and talking. Teacher wages kept falling and falling.

Like any institution (government,  churches, corporations…) Unions sometimes work against their own members.  Sometimes to sustain the Union; sometimes just at the  whim of a corrupt leader.

Reagan breaking the air traffic controllers, and that right-wing swing of the 80’s and 90’s left most people feeling leery of Unions and the “Union Bosses.”   That’s a bullshit tag. Union leaders are more like CEO’s than mob bosses.

I thought Unions were a dying institution.

Red for Ed

Then 2 years ago I stood on the side of the road with a “Red for Ed” sign. I wasn’t teaching then, just supporting the Bear.

afba7b_e9c28919512f44f0a777e9384bc0bef1~mv2.png
Yep — That’s the Bear in the T-rex costume. You can tell because she looks like she has to pee.

And holy shit, it sorta worked.  Teachers got a 10-percent increase two years in a row.  Arizona went from 49th in pay all the way up to 45th — that’s right, eat shit Mississippi.

But Red for Ed was a temporary wave not a Union movement.   Some of the Bear’s fellow teachers don’t pay Union dues and didn’t partake in the protest.  Most of those  are Republicans or Libertarians. Sure they took the money.  Those fucking freeloaders are the first to bitch about low wages but won’t do shit about it.

Collective bargining is one of the only “balances” to monopolies.  Almost every big industry in America is a virtual monopoly with only 2-3 major players.

If the employees don’t find a way to work together, the corporations will pick us apart.  It’s economic divide and conquer.

The last time America was full of monopolies, inequality and Laisse-Faire government, it was the fucking Gilded Age — and that shit went down like the Titanic (only First Class passengers survived).

It was sunk by the Progressive Movement, a couple of world wars and Unions taking some power.  It took a depression and bloodshed to make Unions legal.

Let’s hope we are a little smarter than we were 100 years ago, and it won’t take a worldwide depression and starvation, millions killed in war and bloody battles in the streets to bring wages back where they belong.

Labor Day is a good time to sleep in, cast our memory back and relearn that Unions are actually a good thing…

3 thoughts on “A Day Without Labor

  1. I love this. I was a union steward for year, representing letter carriers. The NALC is one of the few strong unions remaining, and we kicked ass. Still do. The wages are good, and the benefits are decent. But without the union, it wouldn’t be so rosy for letter carriers.

    If more people understood the true spirit of Labor Day, they wouldn’t be so down on unions. Unions have done a lot of good. They’ve helped build the middle class, and have raised the standard of living across the board, for both union and non-union workers.

    Liked by 2 people

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