I wonder who's working today?

>> Monday, September 06, 2010

Coming into this Labor Day weekend (here in the States--if you're somewhere else, I imagine today is just Monday), I really had to wonder if Glenn Beck or any of the teabaggers would be throwing a protest today, or if they'd be at the beach. Really.

I mean, after all, what you have with this whole holiday-off thing is nothing more than Big Government's craven, cowardly capitulation to the socialistic forces of union labor at the expense of the productive capitalists, doers and makers. The lazy Federal government shuts down for the day as do State governments, and private employers are strongly pressured to diminish production and cut into the profits that are rightfully theirs by closing down for the day.

So I assume all of you are at work, right?

Slate recently reprinted their short piece on the history of Labor Day. It's worth a look. The even shorter version is that the day was instituted as a national holiday as a capitulation to the labor movement in the wake of the Pullman Strike. If you don't want to bother with the Wikipedia link in the previous sentence, here's the really short version of that: in 1894, a bunch of lazy whiners, goaded by socialists, refused to work twelve hour days for diminished wages for the Pullman Palace Car Company and complained that while their wages had been cut, the rents in the company town they were required to live in (Pullman, Illinois) remained the same (just like the work hours); their complaints being farcical on their face, executives of the Pullman Company declined to even talk to the rabble. Shouldn't they have been grateful to have jobs at all? Didn't they understand that making George Pullman enormously wealthy benefited the nation?

No, instead the ingrates refused to work at all, threatening irreparable harm to George Pullman and the United States. And to make matters worse, other unions involved in transportation called sympathy strikes, resulting in a shutdown of railway traffic, and there were some riots, and then Federal Marshals backed by the United States Army shot a bunch of the layabouts. At which point, President Cleveland realized maybe things had gotten out of hand and suggested a national holiday as sort of a huge "We're So Sorry" card to the country for shooting a bunch of poor people.

This being, natch, the kind of Golden Age conservatives love to go on about, I think: low wages, long hours, owing your life to the company store, greedy monopolists, soldiers shooting American citizens--good times, good times.

Granted, the unions have their problems these days, they have ever since the Mob recognized there was money to be made if they could turn the unions into a racket. Even after some of the unions have cleared out a lot of the corruption, the rotten smell has remained. But I don't think the teabagging folks are concerned with the corruption of organized labor as they are seduced by the nebulous concept of "unions bad" that their leaders have handed down to them, and their leaders are very much the descendants of George Pullman: that what a capitalist does with capital is the only thing that matters, and fuck the workers if they can't all invent their own fancy-schmancy passenger rail cars and raise their own capital to start their own corporations to fuck their own workers. It's a mentality that says that wanting to be paid enough to eat is a form of parasitism.

The irony here being that unions are victims of their own successes in this climate. People in the teabagger crowd can kvetch about the evilness of organized labor precisely because the unions, representing those who toil and sweat, successfully fought for forty-hour workweeks, paid overtime, and other perks that suck the lifeblood out of the truly productive men who know how to borrow and repay money (an investment, of course, being a form of loan). It's not all sunshine and roses--my friend Michelle has a nice piece up at her blog cataloging some current inequities--but things have improved so considerably since the near-epitome of laissez-faire capitalism that dominated late 19th-Century America that the followers of Beck and his ilk really don't know how good they have it.

I have to wonder how many have them have felt even a pang of irony to utter the phrase "Labor Day Weekend".

So happy Labor Day, folks. Take a second, perhaps, to consider what this day represents after you've unpacked the car or while you're throwing something succulent onto the grill.

I'll follow Michelle's lead and leave you with a tune that I think will be more than self-explanatory.






5 comments:

Carol Elaine Monday, September 6, 2010 at 1:29:00 PM EDT  

I'll actually be working today. But I volunteered for it - holiday pay FTW!

Random Michelle K Monday, September 6, 2010 at 8:38:00 PM EDT  

I love Pete Seeger.

His Live at Carnegie hall record was a favorite of mine and my brother when we were little.

Leanright,  Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 12:39:00 AM EDT  

You all seem worried about something. What is it? LOT of time talking and writing about the Tea Party. Getting nervous?

Market closed today. Couldn't work.. Plus I turned the grand old age of 42. I needed it.

Hope you all had a great day off...or on, whatever the case may be.

Eric Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 9:28:00 AM EDT  

Damn straight I'm nervous, Dave. Uneducated mobs driven by demagogues, with notable strains of racial and religious bigotry? The least damage the Tea Party could do is to elect a bunch of idjits to Congress who trigger a governmental shutdown or essentially cripple the government by launching waves of irrational subpoenas at the White House on some sort of fool's crusade to prove the President is a Kenyan Socialist Muslim From Outer Space; the most damage the Tea Party could do is some of the least-hinged members could take the "reload" rhetoric seriously and hurt somebody.

I giggle when somebody taunts me with the, "What, scared of them?" business, because I'll be frank: hell yeah, I'm scared, and any reasonable person from either side of the political aisle ought to be at least a little nervous when someone stirs up and gives legitimacy to the dark side of the American psyche. You have prominent voices in the Tea Party movement who sound like Birchers, McCarthyites and Freemen. That's scary shit, you have right there. Someone taunts me with that as if I'm supposed to get all defensive and say, "Oh no, harmless rabble and gang of idiots, why would I be scared?" Nope. I'm scared. I'm plenty scared. If I wasn't scared, I wouldn't bother.

On a happier and wholly different note, happy birthday.

Random Michelle K Tuesday, September 7, 2010 at 9:54:00 PM EDT  

Worried about something? Hmmm... Could it be that one of the biggest robber barons in WV mining, whose non-union mine with safety violations out the ass killed men this year, is now gleefully rubbing his hands because he is once again in the free and clear to purchase WV elected officials? (See: Upper Big Branch Mine, Don Blankenship, Elliot "Spike" Maynard, Brent Benjamin)

Gee, what could there be to worry about?

You wanna know why I despise Republicans so much? Don Blankenship tops the list, followed by Arch Moore, John Rease, and most especially the Warner brothers.

These are individuals whose desire for money and power supersedes anything, including the truth, and the health, safety, and lives of those with whom the do business.

Worried? Nope. Mad as heel? You betcha!

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