Monday, September 2, 2013

Labor Day

Only in the United States is May Day celebrated in September. Just like it is everywhere else, the celebration of the labor movement, here in the USA, used to be May 1.

It started with the Knights of Labor parading down Fifth Avenue, the official histories proclaim. President Grover Cleveland is given credit for establishing it as a national holiday in 1897, and for changing the date. Cleveland, siding with Capital in labor disputes, like all presidents do, had recently used US troops to end the Pullman Strike. The troops had murdered some striking workers, so he wanted to make amends, it is said.

But labor histories say he didn't want Labor Day to be May 1 because workers had begun marching on that day to commemorate the Haymarket Massacre of 10 years earlier, when law enforcement had also murdered workers. The general strikes in Chicago that led up to the Haymarket Massacre, in which a lot of blood was shed to win the eight hour workday, is really where it all began, what the May 1 marches were all about, and where Labor Day, and May Day celebrations all over the world, got their start, right here in the good old USA.

We've come to a point at which just about 11 percent of US workers are in unions, which is why politicians think they can blow off Labor Day without a mention. They realize that we have a president who although he runs as a Democrat is anti Labor, who, for example, dropped his support for the Employee Free Choice Act as soon as he was elected and who, as part of his deal to "bail out" the US automakers forced UAW members to accept a two tiered wage system, which means starting autoworkers now make half what they used to, which is really what the corporations wanted and why they got together and created the auto industry "crises" in the first place, all of which Barak Obama full well knew.

Of New Mexico's legislative delegation, four of them, Michelle Grisham, Tom Udall, Ben Lujan and Steve Pearce have nothing at all to say about Labor Day, either at their web sites, or on their Facebook pages which is where most announcements from politicians appear now. As far as Grisham, Udall, Lujan and Pearce are concerned, working people can take a flying leap at a rolling donut.

Martin Heinrich, who, although like the rest of them has done absolutely nothing to support the passage of the Employee Free Choice Act, did post a statement about Labor Day on his Facebook page:

"Labor Day is very special to me. My father was an IBEW lineman, and his union wages were what helped pay my way through college. It's important that today we honor and remember the people who built this great nation. I believe that our country is strongest when we support working families, seniors, and our veterans. We need to build America from the middle class out, not from the top down. I will continue to fight for every hard-working New Mexicans who deserve a fair shake."

On the one hand, this cliche ridden, non committal, grammatically mangled, misspelled piece of blather is so goddamn inane that it brings tears to my eyes. Read it. After acknowledging that he got his education alright, it meanders its way through veterans and seniors and says absolutely nothing. Notice how the word "union" is nowhere in it -- he's simply honoring and remembering people who work for a living, not the labor movement, unions, which is what Labor Day is there to honor --  but notice how it mentions the IBEW, so that only the small minority of readers who know those letters stand for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers will even know he's referring to a union.

On the other hand, he did take a little time, unlike the others, out of his summer vacation to mention Labor Day, in a way that is so goddamn condescending and takes whoever bothers to read it for such a goddamn idiot that it brings tears to my eyes.

Read it again. It says, This what you have to look forward to for the next 30 years while I enjoy the perks of being a US senator. It says, I promise you nothing, I owe you nothing, I will do nothing for you. It says, My people tell me that I can dash off inane, poorly written, misspelled crap like this and enough of you are gullible enough to swallow it that you will still vote for me, and vote for me and vote for me until I decide I'd like to retire and go to work for someone from the class of people I'm up here to serve.

So happy Labor Day, as we commemorate the just about one hundred years in this country when working people stood up on their hind legs and demanded something instead of letting themselves be rolled over like we do now and when politicians were decent enough the help them get it, when the people of this country fought, enough of them did anyway so that everybody benefited from it, fought and died for more than the ruling class wanted to toss to them, and for things like good health care benefits and for the privacy in which to enjoy the fruits of their labor in peace, fought for things like the good publicly funded education Martin Heinrich got, that kids nowadays, kids like he was, can get no more.

Happy Labor Day, as we remember those people, those union members, and how we benefited from what they did, and as we kiss the American Dream goodbye.


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