Monday, September 3, 2012

Labor Day 2012

Labor Day means the end of Summer; it is our prelude to the Fall term of school. Research indicates President Grover Cleveland signed Labor Day into law only six days after the end of the Pullman Strike, following the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S. Marshals during the Pullman Strike. The US Congress then voted unanimously, approving the rushed legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday

By 1894, when it became a federal holiday, thirty states already celebrated it. Oregon became the first state to declare this day a holiday (1887). All U.S. states, the District of Columbia, and the territories now celebrate it as a statutory holiday.

Our September date was originally chosen by New York’s Central Labor Union, and observed by many of the nation's trade unions. This September date was selected over the more popular International Workers' Day because President Cleveland was concerned that observance of the latter would be associated with the nascent Communist, Syndicalist and Anarchist movements that, while distinct from each other, rallied together in commemorating the Haymarket Affair on International Workers' Day.

The Haymarket affair was a peaceful Chicago rally gone sour in 1886, when someone threw a bomb that resulted in numerous deaths. This calls to mind J. Edgar Hoover’s seeing Communists behind the Civil Rights activities of M. L. King, now known to be false. More recently, Wis-consin’s Governor Walker eliminated bargaining rights for Wisconsin’s Muncipal employees.

Growing up in a Republican household, as I did, we viewed the labor movement as tools of the Mafia and urban Mobsters. Democrats, especially from Detroit,were considered Socialists, Communists, and unAmerican. That was long before I grew to maturity, learned better, and gained a more Biblical perspective.

As an older adult Christian today, I now view all people as God perceives them (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:16-21). That means I do not reject people just because Communists say the person has certain rights. It means I do not support Governor Walker because I see him treating a segment of labor as he would not accept being treated himself, nor would I want such treatment.. Few, if any, of the Governor’s constituents would agree to being treated as the Governor is now treating Wisconsin employees. Financially expedient or otherwise; it is contrary to the Golden Rule.

Somehow, we have obscured the values of ordinary working people. There was a day, when many Americans agreed that the way to obtain laborers was to enslave them. Here, I take the liberty of quoting from Carter Woodson (The Negro In Our History/Associated Publishers, Washington, D.C./1941 7th ed./p216 ff). He describes a slave drive to the Southwest, and the unusual hardships of such a drive … quoting:

"Featherstonaugh mentions his meeting in southwestern Virginia a camp of negro slave drivers just packing up to start. He said, ’They had with them about three hundred slaves who had bivouacked the preceding night in chains in the woods. These they were conducting to Natchez, on the Mis-sissippi River, to work upon the sugar plantations in Louisiana. It resembled one of the coffles spoken of by Mungo Park, except that they had a caravan of nine wagons and single-horse carriages for the purpose of conducting the white people and any of the blacks that should fall lame. The female slaves, some of them sitting on logs of wood while others were standing, and a great many little black children, were warming themselves at the fire of the bivouac. In front of them all, and prepared for the march, stood in double files about two hundred men slaves, manacled and chained to each other...

“Josiah Henson, a Negro brought into this traffic said: ‘Men trudged on foot, the children were put into the wagon, and now and then my wife rode for a while. We went through Alexandria, Cul-pepper, Fauquier, Harpers Ferry, Cumberland, and over the mountains to the National Turnpike to Wheeling. In all the taverns along the road were regular places for the droves of Negroes con-tinually passing along under the system of internal slave trade. At the places where we stopped for the night, we often met Negro drivers with their droves, who were almost uniformly kept chained to prevent them from running away.

“Edwin L. Godkin said: ‘The hardships these negroes go through who are attached to one of these migrant parties baffles description … Thousands of miles are traversed by these weary wayfarers without their knowing or caring why.”

In discussing the establishment of the Plantation system, Woodson quotes one reference to certain older states annually exporting 80,000 slaves to the South, and when the African Slave Trade was restricted, “One writer estimates the number of slaves exported from Virginia at 120,000” (219).

Why remember this ignominious history? Why remember the Holocaust? Or, the first atomic bomb? Because there is a sameness of attitude regarding labor today! When Lou Dobbs wrote his best seller a few years back, CEOs had been paid over the five years prior to his writing an aggregate of $865 million in compensation (CEOs of AT&T, BellSouth, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, Lucent, Merck, Pfizer, Safeway, Time Warner, Verizon & Walmart) while shareholders were losing $640 billion. That is to say nothing of the male and female employees.

Statistics are abundant; books are voluminous. They suggest that working people have no more value today than did the slaves during Plantation days. The bottom line is everything! People who criticize the system, who defend the working people and demand more equality are labeled as left field liberals, Socialists, and supporters of Obamania.

I do not ask that we conform our society to Christianity, and I strongly support separation of Church and State. I am convinced, however, that the decadent powers driving today's politics -- those most enjoying the fruits of their Capitalism and unvarnished greed by enriching themselves at the expense of the more vulnerable middle and lower classes, have yet to deal with the eternal verities spoken by Jesus when he said (Matthew 25:31-46):  AND THE KING SHALL ANSWER AND SAY UNTO THEM, VERILY I SAY UNTO YOU, INASMUCH AS YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ONE OF THE LEAST OF THESE MY BRETHREN, YE HAVE DONE IT UNTO ME.

Today’s political decisions that allow the privileged to economically enslave others will meet their political choices again in the Judgment Hall of God’s Eternal Verities. There will be no changing of one’s party or view, then. The way we treat one another has a strong correlation with our relation-ship to the Eternal!

From Warner’s World, I am

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