Monday, September 6, 2010

Happy Labor Day

This scene from Norma Rae is one of my favorite moments in film, and appropriate for Labor Day, of course.

My dad was a pipefitter, a proud member of local 211 his entire working life. He believed in the Union deeply, and gave that belief to me. Big Bill Haywood and Mother Jones were heroes in my house, as were Clarence Darrow and Gene Debs. I read many books about them, and about the labor movement, which only strengthened my belief that the only hope working people have against the selfish interests which stand against them is to stand together—Union.

My dad died some years ago, so I am no longer directly tied to the movement. I no longer work in a union job, though I have worked in ownership and management enough to have attended countless numbers of meetings where white men gather together and reveal their true selves—enough for me to tell you without doubt that absent unions, the working people of this country would be in a hell of a fix. Obviously, I'm proud of my dad, and the values he gave me. And I am proud to have grown up in a Union home.

This last clip is from Matewan, probably the best film I've ever seen about the history of it all; in places all over this country, the land is steeped in the blood of working people who defied the bottomless greed of capitalists, and paid the ultimate price for it. Labor Day is a commemoration, and a celebration, of their sacrifice.

Joe Kennehan:"They got you fightin' white against colored, native against foreign, holler against holler—when you know there ain't but two sides in this world: them that work, and them that don't. You work. They don't. That's all you got to know about 'em." Truer words were never spoken.

If you are of or have sympathy for the vampire class who have stolen the labor of working people since the beginning of time (one way or other), tomorrow's a good day to go fuck yourself (The National Review blog is about 180 degrees thataway, hoss ). Everyone else, when you have your barbeque and ale tomorrow, give a little thought to those who made our standard of living possible, fighting, sometimes dying, for what is right. Give a little thought, too, to them that still fight, and all who are still oppressed. Like Gene Debs said, “While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”

(And while your at it, heft one, specifically, for ol' Gene, too)...

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