posted on Sep, 4 2010 @ 08:13 AM
It is Labor Day Weekend here in the US and I think we should celebrate by understanding the origins of the holiday.
It was made a Federal holiday in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland and passed unanimously by Congress in 6 days. Why such a record breaking time?
Fears of general unrest about the deaths of 13 individual workers and the wounding of 57 others by the US Military and Federal Marshals over the
Pullman Strike as well as the then questionable Constitutionality of the President sending in Federal forces to break up a strike.
The Pullman Strike was a refusal to move trains pulling Pullman Railcars in sympathy for the workers in the company owned town of Pullman, Illinois
who had their wages cut due to the slow down in purchases (a result of the Economic Panic of 1893) yet still had 12 hour workdays and no decrease in
rent of their homes in the company owned town. As an aside, you may understand this a little better if you consider the lyrics of Tennessee Ernie
Ford's song Sixteen Tons.
Many of the workers that built the Pullman Railcars were members of the American Railway Union, which led to the switch operators refusal to switch
the trains, effectively shutting down the entire West Coast traffic. The threat was then made that if any punishment were to come to the switch
operators, the entire ARU would walk.
It should be noted that September was chosen to separate the idea that there is a connection to the International Labor Day on May 1 and the writings
of Karl Marx. But I should point out Marx's four types of alienation in labor under capitalism:
- Alienation of the worker from his or her species essence as a human being, not a cog in a machine.
- Alienation among workers, capitalism reduces labor to a commercial commodity to be traded on the market, rather than a social relationship.
- Alienation of the worker from the product, its design and production are appropriated by the capitalist class and escape the worker's control.
- Alienation from the act of production itself, that work boils down to an endless sequence of discrete, repetitive, trivial and meaningless motions
offering little, if any, intrinsic value.
While I do not agree completely with Marx on his political teachings, there is definitely a degree of being correct in those descriptions. Because
there is alienation in the workplace between labor and management. And there is alienation between different laborers in how the holiday is
celebrated. And there is most certainly a separation between the citizens and the politicians in the US.
Look at the people that have to work the holiday. With the exception of essential services of fire, police and medical care; the majority of those
that have to work are the low paid that could not afford the day off without pay. The majority of those that could afford an unpaid day off are the
ones that receive it as a paid Holiday.
As I pointed out but didn't specifically state, the ones being honored by the Holiday are the ones that could most likely afford to arm themselves
and create the civil unrest that both President Cleveland and the Congress at the time feared could happen. So as you celebrate the unofficial end
summer this Labor Day Weekend, take the time to realize that holiday really marks the end of something else: your ability to not communicate and
associate with your fellow workers in order to organize an economic (or another type of) revolt against those that wise to control you.