I grew up on the romance of the the early labor movement. My father was a full-on supporter of unions and I knew what solidarity meant before I was old enough to go to school. Today, we talk about the need to defend FDR’s New Deal, which many of us consider the single most important factor in the creation of today’s strong though embattled middle class. The New Deal, however, and programs like Social Security, would have been impossible without the fifty to sixty years of labor ferment, often violent, that preceded the Great Depression, and the sacrifices of the individuals who fought in the name of solidarity. So, in honor of that history, I’ve put up a song that reflects the union spirit:
And here’s a song about the archetypal union man:
Some more suggestions for celebrating Labor Day: Get a copy of Labor’s Untold Story: The Adventure Story of the Battles, Betrayals and Victories of American Working Men and Women by Richard Boyer and Herbert Morals, and begin reading it. John Dos Passos’ U.S.A. Trilogy is also a great, if pessimistic, mix of fiction, news clippings and biographical sketches that present the social ferment of the 1920 and 30s. It’s not just history, but one of the greatest literary achievements of the 20th century. For those who prefer movies, my favorites are the 1999 film, Cradle will Rock, and, of course, John Sales’ Matewan.
*1st paragraph slightly edited.