Article/Open Thread: I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

(Posted by chris the cynic)

Today is Labor Day in the United States of America.  A day which is traditionally celebrated in the USA by ignoring all of the good things organized labor has done for us and instead shopping at large chain stores which treat their workers like crap because they’ve got sales!

Joe Hill was a songwriter in the IWW.  He was, as near as we can tell looking back from the present day, framed for murder and executed because the people in charge of businesses in Utah didn’t like him very much.

He introduced the phrase “Pie in the Sky” to the English language.

There was a time in this country (for anyone who doesn’t know, I live in the USA) when pissing off business owners could get you executed.  There was a time in this country when businesses hired mercenary air forces to bomb their own employees and their families (theoretically into submission) because it was cheaper than treating those employees like not-crap.  (West Virginia, look it up if you want.)

There was a time in this country when…

But things are better now (if still incredibly far from good).  Because Labor.  Laborers organized together on the theory that solidarity would give them leverage and together they could stand up to the wealthy and well connected and get protections put in place for the not-super rich.

Of course, the holiday itself was pushed through Congress as a political ploy after the messy shutdown of a strike which itself was full of problems (the union in question was apparently racist, for one thing) so even at the time there was a feeling of, “Fuck off, workers.”  And it was chosen not to coincide with International Workers’ Day because workers are commies and anarchists and stuff donchaknow?

So things were always complicated.

Anyway, this was supposed to just be a labor day open thread, so: Labor day.  Thoughts?

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2 thoughts on “Article/Open Thread: I dreamed I saw Joe Hill last night

  1. depizan September 2, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Colorado, another mining state, also saw anti-union violence, some of it perpetrated by the Colorado National Guard and state police. Wikipedia has information on the Ludlow Massacre, the Columbine Mine Massacre, and the Colorado Labor Wars.

    But all of that seems to be ancient history to most people here, who don’t even seem aware how much their own working experience has been influenced by the labor movement. So, instead, they dismiss things like the current attempts by fast food workers to get a living wage as “whining” or complain that if the minimum wage were raised, no one could afford anything (because businesses, clearly, would set prices no one could afford – that’s how they stay in business. Oh, wait).

    I guess I can’t blame people for being unaware of the labor movement/labor wars, since none of that is taught in schools, or at least wasn’t at my high school.

  2. storiteller September 3, 2013 at 9:27 pm

    I previously saw how we fail to recognize the labor movement on Labor Day, but I totally missed the terrible irony of the shopping aspect! Probably because I shop when I need something rather than when there’s a sale. But yeah, that’s just wrong.

    I think we covered a little bit of the labor movement in high school, but certainly never connected it to modern day issues or advancements.

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