Labor unions across the United States celebrated today in a variety of fashions: parades, picnics, hosting endorsed candidates, and perhaps heaving a collective sigh of relief that another year has come and gone and unions in America still exist and have a purpose.
Montana has celebrated the first Monday in September as “Labors’ Day” since the early 1890s. In fact, Montana adopted the holiday several years before President Grover Cleveland signed it into existence on the federal level. Not surprising given the strength of unions in the Treasure State but also a bit deceiving. Elmer Mats, a self-proclaimed Daly Democrat, carried the Montana Labor Day bill through the legislature in 1891 not because he had a strong desire to honor the working class people of Montana but because it suited the agenda of his political benefactor, Copper King Marcus Daly. A small fraud we overlook today that helps mask an even larger fraud perpetrated at the expense of working class America, a fraud that stretches all the way back to Chicago and the Haymarket Square Riot of 1886.
In response to the injustice of the prosecution and execution of the Haymarket Martyrs, the Second International, those pesky commies, designated May 1st, May Day, as the International Workers Day. However, when it came time for the United States to acknowledge and adopt a Labor Day the conservative elements in the American labor movement colluded with corporate America and the political elite, selecting the first Monday in September. The fraud goes deeper because we don’t celebrate the working class, in the United States of Corporate America we democratically celebrate everyone: the worker and the boss, the poor and the 1% because we all work regardless of our financial status or social class.
And what has this benevolent attitude regarding Labor Day gotten us? A country where over half the states have unjust right to work laws; a country that no longer boasts a vibrant and progressive middle class; a country once again enjoying the inequities of a Second Gilded Age; a country that has embraced a law giving corporations the status of individuals. So as you wind up your 2016 Labor Day give yourself some time for reflection and introspection and if you don’t like what you see then roll up your sleeves and work to change it.
Rowan – “Wherever you find injustice, the proper form of politeness is attack.” T-Bone Slim