CSotD: Labor Day among the proles

An odd piece today from Prickly City (AMS), where the meaning of Labor Day, and of holidays, has apparently disappeared entirely.

Well, perhaps not so odd, given that we’ve largely stopped honoring holidays in this country. We’ve not only got fewer holidays than many other countries, but we only take a handful of them as holidays anyway. The banks and the post office close and, often, the schools, while the rest of us keep our noses pressed to the grindstone.

It wasn’t always like that. It used to be that, on a holiday, you could drive through a town and find all the stores shuttered but for a small grocery store that might stay open for anyone who needed more hot dogs or beer. We all knew that the fellow who owned that store was a bit of a miser, but we were happy enough to have him there if we ran out of picnic supplies.

Though, of course, we were used to stocking up in advance, since most of the stores were closed on Sunday as well, a practice that ended when someone decided it made sense to spread the same amount of spending over seven days instead of six.


The same geniuses, I suppose, being ridiculed in this cartoon from the Salt Lake City Herald for assuming that the coal miners were living in luxury and needed no further consideration. This would have run sixteen years after Haymarket and a dozen before Ludlow, though those events are hardly the starting and ending points of the effort to gain recognition for workers.


In any case, it was a long time ago and we’ve largely forgotten it, and Dave Granlund notes that we’ve shipped our manufacturing jobs overseas, a move that might have inspired boycotts once upon a time.

I put together a pretty good rant about our economy back in 1995, and the point in quoting it now isn’t to prove myself — or Robert Reich — a prophet, but rather to document how long we’ve been watching this slow-motion train wreck:



Labor Day in Australia isn’t until next month, but Matt Golding marks how things have deteriorated for workers in this century alone, and, as I did 27 years ago, predicts that they won’t take it quietly forever.

It’s worth pointing out that the rage comes not just in the form of Starbucks employees voting to unionize while the stores in which the vote succeeds seem likeliest to be closed down by the company.


Mike Lester (AMS) is not off base in suggesting that better pay in the fast-food industry is likely to result in layoffs and tougher work for those enjoying the pay increase. Other critics of sustainable pay point out that, as wages go up, the cost of a burger-fries-and-Coke meal rises with it, wiping out much of the gain.

Fair enough, though a parent might need to spend that additional money on something other than junk food.

It’s also reasonable to ask why the critics so incensed over the cost to taxpayers of student loan forgiveness aren’t equally upset over the cost to taxpayers of providing government benefits to fast food workers, and you’ll note by the date on that Business Week story that this isn’t news.

But, hey, show me that it’s no longer true.

Furthermore, it’s not just fast-food workers who care about being treated decently. When, in 2016, Carrier announced plans to shift its manufacturing to Mexico, Donald Trump made the loss of jobs a part of his presidential campaign, and there turned out to be a lot of disgruntled workers who don’t hold spatulas and wear paper hats.

Perhaps the coal miners should have listened to Hillary Clinton’s pledge of retraining, but the fact is, they preferred Trump’s promise to increase their jobs, not that it happened.

Still, it’s a sign that labor discontent is not, Ted Cruz notwithstanding, confined to baristas and burger-flippers.


The rising discontent is neither confined to the traditional “working class,” nor is it all about the money, as Crowden Satz points out. We’re seeing a lot diversity in TV commercials, but it’s not filtering up to the boardrooms at the same pace, and the point here about “non-Ivy League schools” is driven home by the fact that a lot of the people benefiting from the MAGA rage are, themselves, children of privilege.


And on the lower rungs of the corporate ladder, Alex suggests, the future tyros of the financial industry are chafing under the same rising costs as the rest of us.


Even Mr. Boffo goes a bit political with this gag, pointing out that living longer isn’t the same as living well.

Proposals to raise the age for Social Security eligibility are a given, and Medicare is also a constant target of those who don’t, apparently, understand that the term “entitlement” refers to something that is neither charity nor welfare but something to which you are entitled.

How do we pay for it? I don’t know. Maybe by raising taxes on people who make huge profits from the work of their employees and who treat the American economy like a casino? Just a thought.

Rather than do that, the GOP wants to make Medicare and Social Security part of the yearly budget so that we can wonder, each time the negotiations come around, whether six months from how we’ll be able to buy groceries or treat our diabetes.

As this MSNBC commentary says, it’s not simply an idea being floated by a few rogue populists, but part of a formal proposal with substantial backing from Republican leadership.


Anyway, enjoy the holiday, or, as Joe Heller recommends, enjoy it to whatever extent that you can.

Tomorrow we can return to worrying that we’re headed back to a time when impoverished widows needed to pick coal from the slate bank while fretting that mines like the Furnace and the Shoo Fly would be closing and leaving them and their neighbors in even greater straits.

It not only can happen here, but it’s part of our history.

Which is why we celebrate the sacrifices of those who worked to try to ensure it doesn’t happen again.



3 thoughts on “CSotD: Labor Day among the proles

  1. Even the postal workers don’t get Labor Day off any more. I saw the USPS truck making amazon / special deliveries in the neighborhood this morning.

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