Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day

I went to the North Bay Central Labor Council labor day pancake breakfast. You wouldn't know the labor movement was in trouble to look at the crowd. I think free pancakes and t shirts had something to do with it, but what's wrong with that? Business promises you job loss, pay cuts and no health care. Labor delivers free pancakes and t shirts. Which side are you on?

The public radio station was supposedly doing a tribute to labor and I listened while I drove to the breakfast. I quickly figured out that their point was to prove that unions were something in the past and the labor movement isn't relevant anymore. They managed to drag in a couple of elderly folk singers who were a little vague about labor history, but at least one of them had met a worker once. Actually, the poor old things were a little vague about everything. I hope I don't live long enough to get used by some yuppie who is looking to fill his "labor" coverage quota.

They also had some "labor" historians on. The show was pretty much dominated by another elderly fellow who who was determined to take up the whole show explaining his theory that the SF labor movement was saved by a group of anti communist Catholic businessmen. Apparently, were in it not for those unsung heroes of the Police Department and the Chamber of Commerce, the SF general strike would have been taken over by Communists. The whole thing was weird and the old guy's voice was quavering and shrill. What the hell was that about?

It was a relief to be among real live labor people. I got there just as the food ran out. I had a cold dry bagel and an equally cold and dry pancake. I never did find the coffee. I don't give a shit. It was OK to be in a big crowd of people who were talking up real issues. I only stayed for one speaker, Sonoma County's own Norman Solomon. Solomon was just back from Afghanistan. He told a story about an Afghan worker whose house was destroyed by an American bomb. His 7 year old daughter lost her arm. The North Bay's share of war taxes comes to 1.2 billion dollars, including the cost of that bomb. The crowd looked a little tense for a minute there. A lot of union members have family members in Iraq and Afghanistan. My local president's son will be deployed this week. Another local member's son was killed this summer. Then Solomon started to point out what that money could have bought if it had been spent right here. He had us then. The crowd cheered.

I walked around and shook a few hands and left. The labor movement is not doing too well. It's been under attack for my entire working life. It is definitely alive. I will not leave you with some antique folk song about labor. That stuff is quaint as hell but we ain't dead yet.

General Strike- DOA (buy)


@eloh said...

You successfully "got me". You rarely post then spewed. I didn't catch on till later today... I've decided to dole your posts out to myself slowly. I'm very excited about the next post and I hope I can wait till tomorrow to listen and read.

This post made me remember Jimmie Hoffa. I was very very young, but we moved from a rented house into a purchased huge Victorian. My dad didn't work for a union, and the company he gave his life to screwed people over...but the deregulation of the trucking industry changed our family's life.

Steven said...

"Business promises you job loss, pay cuts and no health care. Labor delivers free pancakes and t shirts. Which side are you on?"
Would make a great t-shirt.

I attended a labor day lecture put on by a liberal church in Austin. I was a little disappointed with my experience. The speaker was the Tx legislative director for the AFLCIO. It was just rather mild, tame. He mostly made little sarcastic remarks about the opposition and talked about diversity. All well and good, but god damn it its labor day, with a room full of supporters, lets rouse some enthusiasm.

Jon said...

Steven, you might have come across it, but I will be posting something about a great, great pro labor speech I read today. Sometime this weekend. I promise.

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