Labor Day 2022 – Make Everyday Labor Day!
The following is really a collection of bits and pieces of various Labor Day statements I participated in writing over the past few years. I make no claims at original writing here. And hat tip to all the comrades who participated in writing one element or another of this text. With some new comments and final analysis incorporated into the text.
Over a hundred years ago a frightened President Grover Cleveland pushed congress to recognize Labor Day as a federal holiday in 1894 (the September holiday was first observed in 1882 by the Central Labor Union of New York). In the wake the Pullman railcar strike that saw workers murdered at the hands of U.S. Marshals and Soldiers, Cleveland moved to throw the masses a crumb, Labor Day. In what was perhaps a wise move, he made sure that the holiday did not land on, or even near the already existing International Workers’ Day. On the First of May workers worldwide commemorate an event that took place in the very heart of the United States (Haymarket, May 3, 1886 and adopted internationally in 1889 by an international congress of socialists, anarchists and radical workers) and often call for radical change and even revolution. As sure as water flows downhill, the crumb of Labor Day only teased the empty bellies of workers demanding a better life. On through today, an entire history of struggle has been written with its newest chapters happening before our eyes.
Throughout this history workers have wielded the weapons of Solidarity and Direct Action in order to protect and advance their own interests. With strikes, sabotage, sit-ins and sit-downs and other actions workers have stood up for each other ever since the bosses started exploiting them in the first place. Often during these struggles, the workers would be abandoned and condemned, oftentimes by their own Union leaders and left demoralized and forced to either carry on the fight by themselves, or capitulate to the boss.
Through blood, sweet sweat, tears and bitter struggle, the working class has continued to fight and has since managed to wrestle much from the capitalist class and the state. Despite these collective efforts, our small, yet hard-fought-for gains are under continued attack..
Coming out of the lock down phase of the pandemic, workers struggles, of various sorts, have grown.
From the defensive strikes in many traditional industries and services, such as the CNH Industrial (AgImp equipment), various industrial confectionery and food processing industries, Warrior Met Coal to service sector call centers and educational workers.
With new struggles for various forms of worker organization occurring at Amazon, Starbucks, Dollar Store and a host of hospitality services. For the first time in many a decade, the question of “independent union organization” has been placed back on the table. Independent unionism by itself does not necessarily mean a new radicalism is growing within that trend. But it does mean a radical departure from past top-down organizing. And, in my opinion, is a good thing.
For far too long major segments of the working class have been dormant under the illusion that change can be delegated to exterior organizations or parties. When our struggles are bureaucratized and delegated to others, we lose ownership over them and in turn loose many benefits gained through them. A victory for the working class can only be established if our class is active in the struggle leading to victory.
From the battle for the 8 hour day, to the struggles witnessed this past year, these examples cry out for the need to organize the fight back against the war that is being waged on workers at home and abroad. Through these examples we can begin to see an alternate future and experiment towards it. This new workers’ movement must be established on class struggle lines, a movement that no longer waits for politicians and bureaucrats to resolve the growing inequalities and oppressions. A movement of workers organized through our own self-activity for democratic, combative and autonomous labor and community organizations must replace the stale forms of unionism and social democratic lobbyism that have dominated and compromised most struggles of the last decades.
The way forward …… or at least taking steps forward.
I would tend to agree this analysis:
“When workers develop power through disruptive collective action, this encourages the sense that “we can change the society.” To the extent workers control their own struggles and organizations, this develops confidence and skills among the rank and file. Control of unions by the paid officials and staff doesn’t do this. Self-managed worker mass organizations provide a bridge where radicals in the situation can connect the grievances of their coworkers to the more ambitious agenda for change that socialists offer. Developing stronger class-wide solidarity is important to the process of building a force for social transformation because the working class needs to “gather its forces” from the various sectors of struggle to form a united social bloc with both the power and aspiration for change. In this way the working class “forms” itself into a force that can change the society.”*
- “The Case for New Unions”, Tom Wetzel