Labor Day 2011
By UAW Local 2195 Webmaster and LUPA Advisory Council Chair John Davis
Well we made it again to Labor Day, the last fling of summer and the one day of the year that America’s workers are honored. If we look back in time to Labor Day 2010, we would have never imagined the war that has been waged on workers across the country in the past twelve months. Given the current climate, it is surprising Labor Day hasn’t been replaced with a day to honor America’s wealthy elite – the “job creators.”
On September 5 we will celebrate the 129th anniversary of this great day. The first Labor Day was organized in Boston by the Central Labor Union and was made a federal holiday in 1894. The federal holiday was established following the brutality that workers suffered at the hands of President Grover Cleveland during the famous Pullman Strike of 1894. The Pullman Company cut wages in their factories and the workers walked off the job. The workers struck and soon they were supported by the American Railway Union which refused to the handle Pullman cars on trains. ARU President Eugene Debs got his members to support the workers in the Pullman factories by not handling Pullman cars, which led to over 100,000 railway workers nationwide walking off the job. President Cleveland sent in troops to break up the strike with 13 strikers being killed and over 50 wounded. Once again America’s workers were slaughtered for simply standing up for their rights. Cleveland later made Labor Day a holiday to smooth over public sentiment which very much went against him for sending in troops to deny the workers their legal right.
Fast forward to 2011 and it appears that old sins of this country have come back to haunt again. In November the conservatives came into power thanks to a Supreme Court decisions to view “corporations as individuals”, removing their limits on campaign spending. The “Tea Party” wing of the Republicans benefited from the deep pockets of the Koch Brothers, two of the wealthiest men in the world. They financed many campaigns around the country to fill governorships, congress and state representatives with their puppets. Scott Walker in Wisconsin, Paul LaPage in Maine, Rick Snyder in Michigan and Bill Haslam of Tennessee are all examples of governors that have waged war against working people – with the help of Koch dollars. The Koch family has waged war against social security, unions and public education for decades. Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell recently took time out of the debt ceiling negotiations to attend a Koch brothers “get away weekend” to map the next steps in their corporate takeover of America.
Coast to coast teachers has come under attack as these governors and state legislatures have worked to strip public employees of their bargaining rights. As a result teachers have seen pay cuts, layoffs, benefit reductions and humiliation at the hands of the corporate puppets like Limbaugh and Beck. State budgets were thrown into chaos with tax cuts for the wealthy, as they then used public employees as scape goats for the “budget crisis. These “job creators” cut tens of thousands of teachers nationwide- adding to the rolls of the unemployed. In the end, it wasn’t just teachers who paid the price- but also our children. Overcrowded class rooms, cuts in beneficial programs and crumbling teacher moral from these assaults have greatly impacted the quality of education in this country. We constantly hear about how we must train America’s workers for the global economy, but to date all that has meant is lower wages and benefits as the redistribution of wealthy continues up the food chain.
So exactly where does this leave us on Labor Day 2011? Back to the 1890s that’s where. Workers banded together back then to push back against the corporate elites who took their toil and lined their coffers. Workers did it once and we can do it again.
America’s workers must stand strong – union and non-union alike. The rich are organized and we must be. Men like the Koch’s fund conservative think tanks that spread lies that misrepresent the issues of the day. They spread ideas such as “Social Security is breaking the government” when in fact social security is self funded through pay roll taxes. Not a dime from the federal budget goes toward social security. But- the social security surplus has been used to cover things such as the Iraq War.
So this Labor Day lets stand together – tall and proud. It has been the sweat and toil of the working class that has made these “champions of industries.” We protect them as “job creators” when they are “wealth creators” at the expense of the same workers they attack. Remember this one day of the year belongs to YOU America’s workers. Never let them take that away.
Peace my brothers and sisters,