Why Labor Day Matters

The Battle of Blair Mountain

 

 Miners show off a bomb dropped on them during the siege.

Miners show off a bomb dropped on them during the siege.

The Battle of Blair Mountain involved some 10,000 miners fighting against strike-breakers, local law-men, and eventually, military units. The miners were fed-up with their treatment by the mining company they were working for, and went on strike. The company hired strike-breakers and began evicting miners, even throwing a woman and child out in the rain while her husband was gone.

Eventually the battle was broken with a defeat for the hard working men of the mines, though according to Wikipedia, the conditions improved somewhat since the nation, you know, kind of noticed a battle being fought inside of it.

Nowadays, Americans treat unions with distrust, and try to hold them at arm's length. Conservative populations and governments have passed "right to work" laws in 25 states, most notably in the South and in the Bible Belt, though some of the midwestern states have joined in.

 

 Picture "courtesy" of the national right to work foundation.

Picture "courtesy" of the national right to work foundation.

What does "right to work" mean?

In essence, it means that you are not required to join a union to work at a particular business. It also means that your employer can fire you for any reason at any time, and that you can quit for any reason at any time. Opponents of labor love these laws, because it means they can do a number of things to keep their labor costs low:

  • Rotate employees by firing/re-hiring to prevent accumulation of benefits
  • Intimidation of employees who will not comply with unreasonable work requests
  • Depress wages
  • Avoid dealing with a united workforce

I guarantee you that any medium-to-large business has a stake in a PAC or other organization that wants to prevent workers from unionizing. They're allowed to organize. Why aren't we?

The fact of the matter is that we've allowed the corporations and the politicians they control convince the working men and women of this nation that they're disposable, and that we should be glad to be so. They put forth the belief that you should be thankful to have a job at all, and that merely wanting to organize and look out for yourselves is nigh on treason to the almighty employer.

Employers are natural enemies of the worker. They want to pay you as little as possible for maximum effort. The thing is, Americans are already putting forth maximum effort for little return.

Since the 70s, the wages of US workers have increased, but their buying power has stayed the same, meaning that we're paid more, but the money is worth less. This is according to an article by Pew Research.

Further, according to the Economic Policy Institute, CEOs of major companies are making as much as 271 times more than their average employees, compared to just 30 times more a few decades ago.

Yet, we workers, we fathers and mothers, we homeowners and renters, we students and craftsman, are told to stop asking for unions, stop asking for benefits, don't ask for a pay increase. How greedy can you be, McDonald's workers, wanting a living salary? Imagine that - wanting to be paid enough money to take care of yourself. That's pretty damn American if you ask me. We don't want more than we've earned, but we want our earnings to match our livelihoods. Don't tell me those minimum wage jobs are for teenagers, as real wages continue to stagnate, many 

They're saying these things because they want to keep us as wage slaves, as nose-to-the-grindstone button pushers who dare not look up and ask for more, for what's fair.

We're Americans, and we're supposed to have fairness in our blood, our very veins. When we founded this nation, it was not because of the taxes, but rather, that we had no say in our taxes. No taxation without representation. We didn't mind paying for the defense of the colonies, but we did mind the unfair practices of the king that made life difficult for us.

We working men and women need to stand up and demand a fair shake at work. We need to be given the rights and privileges that workers of other first world nations enjoy today. Higher pay, more time off for families and recreation, better healthcare, and a larger say in the environment of our place of employment. We deserve these things because it's fair. It's American to pay your people what they're worth. It would be even more American to pay them a little extra, because we do things bigger and better in the States than anywhere else in the world. It's patriotic to want to be paid for your hard work, it's all we've ever wanted. What's due us, and not more.

It's time for the people at the top of this American food chain to really look and see how they can make the lives of their employees better. Anyone worth a lick in HR knows that happy workers do better, and we could use that boost as a nation. Let's join the other first world nations in taking care of our workers, and we'll see just how far this economy can REALLY soar. 

I started with the Battle of Blair Mountain because I wanted to emphasize that the bosses in our country have NEVER been our friends. Labor Day matters because labor matters. Don't let anyone devalue your or your work, no matter what that work is. Fast food workers deserve every penny they get, and more besides. The next time you see or hear people striking for higher wages, don't think "Psh, burger flippers don't deserve that kind of money. I don't make that kind of money!" Instead think:

"They deserve more, and I do, too. I work hard, and I shouldn't struggle to put food on the table."

I'll tell you one thing: the CEO isn't worried about bills he forgot about or getting an extra shift. Why should you?