Labor Day weekend is a reminder there’s no labor party in U.S. politics. Instead, we have two pro-business parties: the Republicans and the Republicans-lite, otherwise known as the Democrats. Both are coerced if not controlled by corporations through campaign finance “contributions” (bribes) and lobbyists (plus the promise of high-paying jobs should your local member of Congress lose an election or wish to transition to a much higher paying job as a lobbyist/influence peddler). With money now defined as speech, thanks to the Supreme Court, there’s a lot of “speech” happening in Congress that has nothing to do with the concerns of workers.
Nevertheless, a myth exists within the mainstream media that “socialist” progressive politicians are coming this fall to take your money and to give it to the undeserving poor (and especially to “illegal” immigrants, who aren’t even citizens!). First of all, the so-called Democratic Socialists are not advocating nationalization of industry; they’re basically New Deal Democrats in the tradition of FDR. Just like Republicans, they believe in capitalism and the “free” market; they just want to sand down some of the rougher edges of exploitation. Consider, for example, Bernie Sanders’s efforts to get a living wage for Disney employees. Disney has finally promised to pay workers $15.00 an hour (phased in over the next few years), even as the corporation makes record profits and the CEO stands to earn hundreds of millions. Second, you’ll notice the bulk of the Trumpian tax breaks aren’t going to the workers and middle class: it’s the richest Americans (and corporations) that benefit the most from these cuts. Some of that money is supposed to “trickle down” to workers, but most of it doesn’t. (Funding stock buy-backs, not pay raises, is especially popular among corporations.)
My father knew the score. As a factory worker, he lived the reality of labor exploitation, and fought his own humble battle for decent wages. I’ve shared this lesson before, but it bears repeating, especially since it’s Labor Day weekend.
My Dad’s Story
(My dad was attempting to get a dime pay raise at the local factory. This was about the year 1950.)
It seems that Mike Calabrese on his own asked Harry Callahan [one of the owners] for a pay raise and he was refused. Mike decided to organize the men members and go down in a group. In our group he got ten men to approach Harry C. for a raise. But when it was time to “bell the cat” only three fellows went to see Harry. Well Mike said he couldn’t join the group because he had already tried to get a raise. I knew I was being used but I was entitled to a raise. Well Harry said to me, “What can I do for you men?” So I said to Harry: 1) Living costs were going up; 2) We deserved a raise. So Harry said, “How much?” and I said ten cents an hour would be a fair raise. So he said I’ll give you a nickel an hour raise and later you’ll get the other nickel. We agreed. So, I asked Harry will everyone get a raise and he replied, “Only the ones that I think deserve it.”
Well a month later I was drinking water at the bubbler and Harry saw me and said what a hard job they had to get the money to pay our raises. Well, Willie, Harry Callahan and his brother Sam and their two other Italian brother partners all died millionaires. No other truer saying than, “That the rich have no sympathy or use for the poor.”
My dad was no political radical. He later became a firefighter and served for more than 30 years before retiring. It’s precisely because my dad wasn’t a political firebrand that his words resonate so powerfully: “That the rich have no sympathy or use for the poor.”
It’s a good lesson to keep in mind. Isn’t it high time we put Labor back in Labor Day weekend?