Today’s question, from Brooklyn:
Dear Real New Yorkers,
What tips can you provide on how to celebrate Labor Day?
Perplexed in Park Slope
No need for confusion. There’s no reason to buy petrochemicals and drive in heavy traffic, or go to crowded beaches or noisy parades.
All you have to do is think — about two words: Labor Movement.
Society is built upon the back of labor. Yours. Mine. His. Hers. Real New Yorkers understand that, as a key portal for immigration to the U.S., our city was, is and always will be instrumental in providing the physical and intellectual strength needed to keep this country humming. And, as we know — or should know — the U.S. consumer economy is a key driver of the world’s economy.
The bravery of the labor movement, born on our streets, resulted in a powerful middle class that created an unparalleled standard of living. Now, today, many politicians believe there is currency in denigrating labor. They claim that the modest remuneration of civil service workers is the cause of broken budgets. They claim that teachers — TEACHERS, FOR GOD’S SAKE!!! — make too much money and have caused the collapse of our once-enviable public school system.
And many citizens believe the noise. “Yeah,” they say, “who do these unionized people think they are, with their Cadillac medical plans, and pensions, and raises. Where do they come shining off?”
Instead, a considered comment might be: “Hey, we deserve that type of package too — we’re holding down the fort for three fired co-workers, and now they cut my hours so I’m not entitled to healthcare benefits anymore!”
For the reality is, when the middle class makes more money, people buy more goods and services and pay more taxes. And that, Perplexed, floats everyone’s boat.
Even the one-percenters howling at the moon over the (stagnated) minimum wage and the need for a few measly sick days a year.
I am reminded that Woody Guthrie lived in Coney Island for a time. He came from Oklahoma, but he ended up a Real New Yorker. His song, Tom Joad (based upon Steinbeck’s epic The Grapes of Wrath) tells a story worth noting and noting well on Labor Day. http://www.woodyguthrie.org/Lyrics/Tom_Joad.htm
Now, Perplexed, if you really want to get your dander up, about today’s labor inequities, give a listen to this performance by Springsteen and Tom Morello, on Springsteen’s homage to Guthrie’s song, The Ghost of Tom Joad. Consider Bruce’s opening remarks as he intros this song. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JChuUgio_8g
After watching it, I think you’ll know better what you should be doing and thinking this Labor Day.
The Real New Yorkers Speak