Happy Labor Day!
Labor Day became a national holiday in 1894 following massive nation-wide strikes.
The fact that workers were well and truly sick of the getting paid diddly-squat for long hours and long weeks of backbreaking work was inundating the news. One of the biggest strikes taking place was against George Pullman's railway car production company in protest of climbing rents and plummeting paychecks. The striking workers were backed by the American Railway Union, under the direction of Eugene V. Debs. Pullman and the other Fat Cats at the top of the production chain hauling in profits from the labor of mistreated workers didn’t like the strike at all. They went crying to federal politicians, who were as dependent then as they are now on Big Industry campaign funds. I’m sure no one it surprised that the US government acted fast to protect the 1%:
“President Grover Cleveland, faced with nervous railroad executives and interrupted mail trains, declared the strike a federal crime and deployed 12,000 troops to break the strike. Violence erupted, and two men were killed when U.S. deputy marshals fired on protesters in Kensington, near Chicago, but the strike was doomed. On August 3, 1894, the strike was declared over. Debs went to prison, his ARU was disbanded, and Pullman employees henceforth signed a pledge that they would never again unionize … protests against President Cleveland's harsh methods made the appeasement of the nation's workers a top political priority. In the immediate wake of the strike, legislation was rushed unanimously through both houses of Congress, and the bill arrived on President Cleveland's desk just six days after his troops had broken the Pullman strike. 1894 was an election year. President Cleveland seized the chance at conciliation, and Labor Day was born.”
Workers were unappeased by the sop, and Grover Cleveland lost his bid for reelection anyway.
In a democracy the people have a way of punishing those who side too openly with the oligarchy. That’s why to this day the oligarchy wants to restrict voting rights. But I digress.
American workers would catch a break until Theodore Roosevelt became POTUS. He offered them a “Square Deal” and twisted the Fat Cat’s arms behind their backs until they agreed to compromise. One of my favorite Presidents, is Teddy.
Labor got another break during the presidency of his cousin, Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Because FDR forcibly made the capital of the top share some of the freaking money with the people who sweated in their factories, he built the foundation for prosperity the likes of which America had never known.
His successor, Harry S. Truman, wasn’t the friend to labor that FDR was, but at least he vetoed the Taft-Hartley Act. Sadly the Taft-Hartley Act, which put strong restrictions on unions that are still in effect, was enacted by Congress anyway. It was nicknamed the "slave labor bill”, if that give you a hint of how badly it sucked goat’s taint.
The next POTUS, Dwight D. “Ike” Eisenhower, whom I would vote for even now if his zombie ran for office, also supported labor unions. Ike maintained that:
“Today in America, unions have a secure place in our industrial life. Only a handful of reactionaries harbor the ugly thought of breaking unions and depriving working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice. I have no use for those -- regardless of their political party -- who hold some vain and foolish dream of spinning the clock back to days when organized labor was huddled, almost as a hapless mass. Only a fool would try to deprive working men and women of the right to join the union of their choice.”
Oh God, what I wouldn’t give for someone like him in the GOP again. Or in the Democratic party come to think of it.
Sadly, the beginning of the end of union strength came when Ronald Reagan broke the strike by the air traffic controllers. In fact Ronald Reagan shot the American Middle Class in the stomach and we’ve watching it die a slow death ever since.
Nary a Democratic POTUS has stepped up in the 30+ years following Reagan to do anything but slap a band-aid on the wound and pretend he can’t hear the death rattle. Not that I am bitter or anything.
Oh wait. I am bitter as all get out.
Pouring salt on the gut-shot middle class is the federally approved oligarchy-helping shitstorm of outsourcing American manufacturing jobs. There’s nothing like no manufacturing jobs to break those pesky unions and wreck the economy! And despite hopes to the contrary, those jobs aren’t coming back anytime soon.