Putting Labor back in Labor Day Weekend

Labor Day Weekend is upon us again. My dad told me that the harder he worked physically, the less he got paid. He worked in factories before he took the civil service exam and became a firefighter in the early 1950s. Over time, his pay and benefits increased due to the power of the firefighters’ union. So make that two lessons from my dad. The first is that workers doing “grunt” work deserve better pay and more respect; the second is that unions should be celebrated for helping workers to get higher pay and better benefits. Yet sadly Labor Day Weekend in America is typically sold as yet another opportunity to spend money at various “sales.” It’s not celebrated as a day to mark the contributions of the humble worker across America. Indeed, if it’s truly “labor” day, shouldn’t nearly everyone have the day off?

Workers had to fight bitter, sometimes deadly, battles for nickles and dimes. And they still do. We need to remember those battles and work to improve the plight of workers everywhere.

Bracing Views

WPR: Marches & PicketsW.J. Astore

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…

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12 thoughts on “Putting Labor back in Labor Day Weekend

  1. OK, I posted my favourite CEO wise guy last year from Porsche. He rubbed the “stockholders value” nonsense into (Royalist, MI5) publication ‘Economist’ noses. He reminded them of Porsche’s 2 year backlog & highest profits. No other car company can claim that! And that’s not an easy field: selling expensive cars that aren’t allowed on public roads to realise their full potential!
    In today’s world of mediocrity, I must say this year I found another hero(ne). Of all people, the Grand Niece of Disney, Abigail. Publicly she states: “This is not the world my Uncle Walt envisioned for his workers. He’d be horrified employees need food stamps a social assistance!”
    I did some research on ‘Uncle Walt’, and he didn’t want a union in his graphics dept. They struck. It was her father Roy who calmed him down: “We’re all ready paying them well; this won’t cost much, and shut up the (corrupt*) union organisers”. He agreed, and profitable ‘Fantasia’ went on. Winning Academy Awards. It gets more strange. Even BEFORE the unionising, Walt was willing to see anyone at the door. A black guy shows up & claims he’s an animator. Walt slips him a Tinkerbell sketch and then comes back. “You working?” “No.” “Then take off your jacket & sit over there”. He was the 1st black technician to ever be at Academy Awards Night. Hollywood was horrified! But Walt & he accepted the awards. They worked together till death & retirement.
    * I bring up this story because we can’t only blame employers, as our union bosses were also corrupt. As a once boss, I blame the employers – for not handling it ‘right’. Mafia corruption was rife when US Unions were formed; Poor working souls handed over BILLION$ over the years as “Union Dues”. Government said nothing, but it ruined American industry…

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  2. Yes we need education for the uninformed & misinformed about Unions because they helped build this country. Unions created the middle class. Unions protect everyday workers from slavery! Is it too much to ask for a living wage? Any Person, or entity that tries to harm the working, or poorer classes deserves revulsion in my opinion. Yes sometimes Union thugs had to fight fire with fire, but who started it first?

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    1. Yes, Philip, “Unions created the Middle Class”. But working in Manhattan 12+ years, I know how corrupt ‘Unions’ can be, and tied to the Mafia. I can’t blame my bosses, who gave us raises from time to time for good work. I got overtime for working late, but was sometimes given an envelope full of cash, when the cleaning crews were arriving. They cleaned well, but not for them! Next morning I was asked by accounting about the “transfer”. Stupid me just nodded. NYC cleaning crews were “UNIONISED” at that time! Mafia was deep in Unions, cheating members of money. So I think today we must “rethink” Unions – which I’m all for. They better be honest this time! Easy to blame my bosses; ie “capitalists”.
      Last subject: Illegal Aliens. They don’t have to worry about Social Security contributions! Or anything else the ladies who cleaned our floors many moons ago. If you’re serious about protecting American workers, this must stop. I HATE Trump but he’s right there.
      No surprise! American “Exceptionalism”! With our cities falling apart, cheap illegal immigration labor will solve it. NO Union! Won’t happen.
      WRONG AGAIN, “Exceptionalists”. Get real!

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      1. PS Please forgive Philip, my confusing reply last night. Yet I’m now convinced this ‘Open Borders’ is tied to…breaking up Unions in the West. Living in Europe, the politicians have been far TOO ‘successful’, and native society is getting quite angry. This could happen in the States also. The politicians rant on about “Exceptionalism”, but even productive Germany is heading to Recession. The great influx of immigrants is a great excuse to cut social & pension benefits for legal residents. Even better excuse to weaken Unions….

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  3. I’m a union member and drew many benefits from it including a secure job for decades with full health insurance a defined benefit pension and a host of regulations about working hours (extra pay for working in the wee hours, extra pay for being called in with less than 12 hours off, etc., etc.) but I have to say that unions can be too powerful and abused power back in the day when they had the clout to do so.

    The fact is that though unions claim they are for all workers, they are really for the working guy/gal that is a member of the union and can be very restrictive in admitting new members. Nepotism can be a problem. Work rules can become ridiculous as was the case with featherbedding on the railroads. There were times in my career when a job needed to be done, could easily be done and yet my union brothers would demand that I not lift a finger to do it. Or there might be something that I needed to do that anyone could do and that was holding up the job, but that I could not do because the particular thing, as simple as moving a ladder, was the preserve of another union.

    I say this with knowledge of the fact that without unions there is no opposition to capitalist greed driving down wages to the bottom even as top managers haul in millions, helping themselves because nobody stops them. Unions did help bring up the general pay level and improved working conditions that we see now falling back for the lack of union power.

    Power must be countered with power with an eye out for too much going to any group, administered by government oversight, currently a joke as legislatures are all in for business. We are way past the time for the pendulum to swing back.

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    1. Though I goofed up my 1st reply to Philip Astore last night, let me be clear, though never a Union Member myself, I have utmost respect for them. My Mafia story is true, but I should mention also, in advertising our most important suppliers were heavily Unionised: typesetters, engravers, high quality photo reproduction. Never a problem! (Though I didn’t say cheap! lol)
      I later ramble on about “illegal aliens”, but I may be onto something. Believe me, I can’t “understand” this, and getting stronger, hatred of Unions!
      I believe you gave the answer correctly why I too support Unions: “…without unions there is no opposition to capitalist greed driving down wages…”.

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  4. Clif, I worked during my early career in the Steel Worker, AFL-CIO and then Teamsters Unions, I will confirm your observations.

    After the Army, I went to college and majored in Finance earning a Bachelors Degree. Most of the business professors gave us this song and dance about all the checks and balances on big business. One instructor in Econ back in 1971 made the bold statement that the Wall Street system was rigged. There were interlocking directorates among the publicly traded firms, plus high elected government officials placed relatives on various boards.

    Then in the late 1970’s and 1980’s the crap starting hitting the fan: Junk Bonds, leveraged buy-outs, Golden Parachutes, the S&L scandal, etc. My wife worked for a large multi-national airline, that expanded after de-regulation and ended up going bankrupt. The company re-emerged from bankruptcy “lean and mean”. Her pension was now non-existent from the company. The Pension Benefit Guarantee Corporation picked a part of the liability, the company unloaded.

    The scandals are simply to numerous to list that Wall Street has perpetrated and got a way with. Of course in some cases the stockholders took a big hit. After the 2007-08 Wall street collapse, Obama and his AG Eric Holder did nothing to hold Wall street accountable.

    So as I view it any corruption by the unions, pales in comparison to what Wall Street has done. Our Campaign Finance system, which is just legalized bribery under a different name selects, stooges and puppets to represent them from local elected officials all the way to Washington. It is a beautiful interlocking defense of all branches of our government. Then we have the Corporate McMega-Media that ignores it all.

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    1. I wish WJA left this post open longer. I think it’s a very important subject that needs much discussion. Moving on, your reflections re Wall Street are right on. Though I also believe destroying Unions is part of their game. Maybe more-so today. Their 90’s gamble with Communist China has not panned out: owning US production & manufacturing, China’s in the driver’s seat today. Wall St. never thinks ahead, though they “think” they do.
      2008 Financial Crisis couldn’t be handled worse – bail out the banks, not the people. That too was planned: Hedge Funds buy them for cheap. Sounds great, if you’re a 1%er, but now residents can’t afford the rents.
      Here’s my point: Invite in Illegal Emigration, Gov’t pays rents, and wrecks Unions at the same time. Am I going crazy? Ahh! I forgot my favourite 4 letter word: ‘Exceptionalism’.

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  5. I didn’t mention something pertinent to this discussion – the feeling about unions held by the public.

    When I was locked out along with my fellow union members in Chicago in 1998, I decided to do some interviewing of the public, the kind of man-on-the-street thing you see done by TV stations like the one locking us out, with the intention of making people aware of our lockout as I gauged opinion at the same time. I paired up with a guy who was cameraman, I took the mic and off we went.

    What we found was a general dislike of unions and I made it a point to talk to people of all appearances, wearing suits or looking like they were homeless, male or female, young or old. The feeling was that unions were out to screw their members with the leadership raking in the dues and doing nothing in return. This is the very heart of union country – Chicago! Those who were in unions were mildly appreciative of them. I was surprised by what I found.

    The genius of the Republican Party from the days of Nixon’s southern strategy is it mines public resentment, regardless of the subject of that resentment. A huge subject for resentment is the idea that somebody is getting something for nothing, something undeserved. The resentment can be completely misplaced as we see with its direction at immigrants, but resentment is cheap and satisfying…it takes no effort and soothes the person who would otherwise have to actually do something to change their situation. It plays to hopelessness. With so many workers not being in unions and struggling to get by on poor wages, resentment can come from seeing union members protected by rules and making higher pay. It should be remembered that my interviewing took place 20 years ago. Union membership has continued to decline.

    The question is – when is wake-up time for the army of resentment? I suspect that not a little of the resentment seethes on the Civil War. Attitudes are hard to change, even as personal circumstances deteriorate. The mind can be a tough nut to crack.

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    1. Yes. Resentment is powerful. And people tend to resent those with a slightly better deal than them, rather than the people at the top, whose lifestyles they really can’t imagine. Or people may resent those with less than them, like homeless immigrants coming to take “their” jobs, even as they profess to love a man like Trump. Even as Trump hires undocumented workers and exploits them.

      The mind is indeed a tough nut to crack.

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      1. Well Happy Labor Day to you guys! I think it was a fruitful discussion and really enjoyed it. Even hopes here, when we crack it, could be the ruin of the MIC & 1%ers. Organised Labor, hopefully done right this time, could prove it’s saviour, or rather resurrection.
        I have only one tick with Clif Brown’s excellent essay. It was not Nixon, but Reagan/Thatcher axis that ruined Unions – or at least tried to! Fortunately, they didn’t succeed, and their damage (might) be repairable. (Not in UK of course: that place is finished. A spent Empire like Portugal, with bad weather.)
        But USA has a chance. We have open forums like this, and never the conceit of Empire, just have to get back to work. Cheap Chinese goods will not save us, nor will unnecessary wars costing us our future to (try) to manipulate oil prices to save the dollar. I could go on but search car shows on this holiday.
        Yikes! Where did these beauties come from?! Hard tops that went into TRUNKS?! 4 door convertibles where the top disappears? Senseless wonders like power antennas and wind vents? But they kept Detroit prosperous!
        Yeah, I’m still petite bourgeois, believe such will save the world. Not an F35, where a 58 Cadillac Brougham Seville Eldorado is more in demand. Unless you’re a dictator.
        The world needs good food, housing, and peace. If you can’t afford the contraptions I’ve described-so what!
        I could be wrong, but thanks to internet, we may be winning this war against the dreadful 1%.
        HAPPY Labor Day!

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