Posts Tagged ‘solidarnosc’

On Labor Day, can’t we all be a little more Polish?

September 5th, 2010

On May Day, I often wear a red tie.  So, I think, did my paternal grandfather, a minor luminary in the International Ladies’ Garment Workers’ Union.  I don’t know what he did for Labor Day.  Labor Day is back-to-school, burgers, football, end-of-summer.  Congress adopted it as a national holiday in 1894 in order to propitiate the labor movement about a week after U.S. marshals and military massacred workers and busted the Pullman strike.  It is a sop, and has the meaning of a sop.  May Day is a holiday (not legally recognized as such in this country, of course) adopted by the international labor movement eight years before the Pullman strike.  Congress could have made May Day the national  holiday, but that would have had too much meaning.  It would have meant celebrating the contributions to human welfare of socialists and unions.  We can’t have that.  So we got the annual holocaust of hamburger instead.

In the mid 1980s I worked as an investigator in the Civil Rights Division of the Vermont Attorney General’s Office, helping to enforce laws that protect employees from discrimination of various sorts: race, age, sex, national origin, religion, etc.  One of my duties was intake.  People would call in with complaints, and I would interview them to determine whether it was the kind of thing we could investigate.  Most often, it was not.  Depressingly often, it was some form of unfairness or oppression that had nothing to do with a person’s race, religion, ethnicity, sex, age, or other “protected category”, and everything to do with the fact that the person was a worker.  “Employee” was not a protected category.  I would ask, do you have a union contract?  Maybe that might protect you.  No, they didn’t have a union.  Don’t hold with unions.  Don’t want no union.  Sorry, there’s nothing I can do for you.

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