Why You Must Labor to Support Labor

labor day

This day has always been important to me.  This and May 1st reminds me of what it truly means to be American.  That it means resistance, that it means necessary action, that it requires hard labor to continually shape my country into the American Vision it should be.

To honor this holiday I am leaving you with a few excerpts from the epic A People’s History of The United States by Howard Zinn.  This should be required reading for any American, or for anyone who has an interest in the TRUTH of American history.  Go BUY this book.  Sit and read it.  Mull over all the people like YOU that sweat, and bled, and died to give you this America you are living in.  Mull over how little you may be doing to live up to these people, or perhaps revel in the fact that you are one of the many “little people” that do Big Things!

Maybe this will sound eerily familiar…

“And so it went, in industry after industry-shrewd, efficient businessmen building empires, choking out competition, maintaining high prices, keeping wages low, using government subsidies. These industries were the first beneficiaries of the “welfare state.” By the turn of the century, American Telephone and telegraph had a monopoly of the nation’s telephone system, International Harvester made 85 percent of all farm machinery, and in every other industry resources became concentrated, controlled. The banks had interests in so many of these monopolies as to create an interlocking network of powerful corporation directors, each of whom sat on the boards of many other corporations. According to a Senate report of the early twentieth century, Morgan at his peak sat on the board of forty-eight corporations; Rockefeller, thirty-seven corporations

Meanwhile, the government of the United States was behaving almost exactly as Karl Marx described a capitalist state: pretending neutrality to maintain order, but serving the interests of the rich. Not that the rich agreed among themselves; they had disputes over policies. But the purpose of the state was to settle upper-class disputes peacefully, control lower-class rebellion, and adopt policies that would further the long-range stability of the system. The arrangement between Democrats and Republicans to elect Rutherford Hayes in 1877 set the tone. Whether Democrats or Republicans won, national policy would not change in any important way.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court, despite its look of somber, black-robed fairness, was doing its bit for the ruling elite. How could it be independent, with its members chosen by the President and ratified by the Senate? How could it be neutral between rich and poor when its members were often former wealthy lawyers, and almost always came from the upper class? Early in the nineteenth century the Court laid the legal basis for a nationally regulated economy by establishing federal control over interstate commerce, and the legal basis for corporate capitalism by making the contract sacred.

By this time the Supreme Court had accepted the argument that corporations were “persons” and their money was property protected by the due process clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. Supposedly, the Amendment had been passed to protect Negro rights, but of the Fourteenth Amendment cases brought before the Supreme Court between 1890 and 1910, nineteen dealt with the Negro, 288 dealt with corporations.

The justices of the Supreme Court were not simply interpreters of the Constitution. They were men of certain backgrounds, of certain interests. One of them (Justice Samuel Miller) had said in 1875: “It is vain to contend with Judges who have been at the bar the advocates for forty years of railroad companies, and all forms of associated capital. . . .” In 1893, Supreme Court Justice David J. Brewer, addressing the New York State Bar Association, said:

It is the unvarying law that the wealth of the community will be in the hands of the few. . . . The great majority of men are unwilling to endure that long self-denial and saving which makes accumulations possible . .. and hence it always has been, and until human nature is remodeled always will be true, that the wealth of a nation is in the hands of a few, while the many subsist upon the proceeds of their daily toil.

If this sounds familiar (and it stupidly should) you should read what we had to do to overcome this oligarchy and to create this holiday Labor Day to showcase the power the people have when they unite!

You can read the whole chapter here:


You should buy the whole book.  It’s pretty damn awesome.

Happy Labor Day!

This entry was posted in Brain Musings/ Interludes/ Reviews and Rants and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Why You Must Labor to Support Labor

  1. btg5885 says:

    Patricia, great post. Several comments. Justice Brewer’s comments rang true then and unfortunately ring true today. With the new campaign funding liberty, “those who have” can more significantly influence decisonmaking than ever before. This is happening at the same time, the labor unions have been painted as evil and unproductive, in an attempt to diminish their value and voice. In witnessing legislation at the state level which is very focused on benefitting the few at the expense of the many, it appears the opinions of regular Joe’s do not matter. This disappearing middle class began in earnest about 30 years ago and it shows up in the data. We need to honor Americans and find avenues to get people working. That is the engine that is lacking to push us over the hump and begin to address our poverty problems. Thanks for sharing and sorry for the soapbox, BTG

  2. Roger Duffin says:

    I will try again. I read an article in the Post-Dispatch yesterday on the effects of unions on everyone’s pay. There is a difference in the pay of all workers when unions are strong in our country.Better working conditions and benefits are also realized. When I was a shop steward I was always amazed at the reaction of people when I explained to them that unions are democracies and corporations are not. Every job in a union is elective. You can run for office, if you want to make change.Not so in a corporation.The union is only as good as the membership.If you don’t go to meetings you can’t bitch.Most corporations are dictatorships where the average worker has no say at all.What Mr Zinn has said is these corporations have controlled the public opinion over generations until people now associate them with democracy.They also have demonized unions until the perception is that they are evil.Unions never have done the hiring and firing at any company. I have found that most of the people who don’t pull their weight at work were relatives or friends of management not the average worker.Nepotism has destroyed many companies. The third generation of owners seem to always start the demise of what were going concerns. The workers have more invested in the company than any supervisor or investor Their whole lives are wrapped up in the company. If it fails they lose everything, their livelihood, savings, home and family are put in jeopardy. I also like to point out that every economic “miracle ” has been accomplished with cheap labor. From the building of the pyramids to the industrial revolution everything has been built on the backs of the worker, slave or indentured servant.This labor day remember the ones that do the work.They are the titans of industry!

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