Friday, September 2, 2011

FRIDAY FOLLIES: Labor Day Edition

This is the start of the Labor Day weekend.  We've been celebrating Labor Day since 1882,  an amazing feat considering all those bastards throughout these long years who would like to strike from our memories the fact that it was labor unions who started the whole thing.

Lately it has become not much more than the last weekend of the summer to go out and get recreational, and on the face of it, that's a good thing.  All work and no play and all that.  But can we just take a moment this weekend to celebrate the movement that is Labor in our country? 

First Labor Day Parade - New York City, 1882

The history of Labor Day  (A 3 1/2 minute video.  Won't take long.)

Striker's children picketing - Flint Sit Down Strike

Marisa Tomei reads the words of a female factory worker involved in the GM sit-down strike, 1936-37, Flint Michigan.

Mother Jones, 1913 Copper Mine Strike, Calumet, Michigan

The only known film clip of Mother Jones - interviewed on her 100th birthday in 1930. 

From left:  Mary Heaton Vorse, Upton Sinclair, Eleanor Roosevelt, Walter Reuther. Photo:  Walter P. Reuther Library

In 1940, Walter Reuther wrote a letter to FDR proposing to turn half-empty auto plants into airplane factories.  His claim, that they could turn out 500 planes a day, might have been a bit of an overreach, but the plan made perfect sense.  Europe was already struggling with Hitler's onslaught, and it was clear it would take years to prepare for it.  But guess who were vehemently against losing even an ounce of profit to help out?  The heads of the companies whose plants Reuther was proposing to use.  The labor leader's plan never got off the ground (not until after That Day that will live in Infamy, when the nation turned to its factories to build up a massive war machine in a hurry), but the letter brought Reuther to Roosevelt's attention and they became friends and allies.  He and his wife were invited to the White House on several occasions.   Roosevelt, it's been reported, actually listened to what Reuther had to say.

So yes, it can be done.  It has been done.  The American Labor Movement has been long recognized as a force for good, except by those who see no profit in admitting it.  
 And for your reading pleasure, labor quotes from the American Labor Studies Center.  (A subversive organization if ever I saw one.)  Their admitted goal is to provide labor history materials to Kindergarten through 12th Grade teachers in order to "provide students with an opportunity to explore the many facets of a very complex and important part of our nation’s history and contemporary life. Teachers are encouraged to use a variety of research and inquiry approaches as they select their pedagogical strategies."  

Oh, my...

Cartoon of the Week:

Mark Hurwitt is an Illustrator, Cartoonist, Designer, Writer and Teacher residing in Brooklyn New York
His website is

Have a grand and glorious weekend, everybody.  Have fun, stay safe, but come Tuesday let's get back to it -- it's jobs, jobs, jobs.

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