Bob Schwartz

Tag: labor

Labor Day: The Wobblies – Industrial Workers of the World

From the IWW History Project at the University of Washington:

Founded in 1905, the Industrial Workers of the World captured the attention of a generation with its fiery rhetoric, daring tactics, and program of revolutionary industrial unionism. Pledging to replace the narrow craft unionism of the American Federal of Labor with massive industrial unions, the organization grew in numbers and reputation in the years before World War I, demonstrating an ability to organize workers neglected by the AFL, notably immigrant steel and textile workers in the Northeast, miners, timber, and harvest workers in the West.

But the IWW’s revolutionary program and class-war rhetoric yielded more enemies than allies. Frequently jailed or beaten when they tried to organize, Wobblies faced something more serious after the United States mobilized for war in 1917. Federal and state governments moved to suppress the organization, imprisoning hundreds of Wobblies, passing criminal syndicalism laws that made membership a crime. The IWW survived and is active today, but never regained the momentum of its early years.

International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union

ILGWU 1

It’s #LaborDay. My Grandpa Harry was a member of the International Ladies Garment Workers’ Union (ILGWU). He made beautiful coats. I still keep one of his union dues cards among my treasures.

All this talk about “Made in America” is incomplete. If we want things made in America, instead of all the other countries most of us buy most of our stuff from, we will pay a price. Unless we are planning to pay American workers the substandard wages of many of our import nations, we have to be willing to pay more for our goods. Are we willing? Are you willing?

Meanwhile, here’s the once famous song of the ILGWU. Maybe it can be famous again.

Look for the Union Label

Look for the union label
when you are buying that coat, dress or blouse.

Remember somewhere our union’s sewing,
our wages going to feed the kids, and run the house.

We work hard, but who’s complaining?
Thanks to the I.L.G. we’re paying our way!

So always look for the union label,
it says we’re able to make it in the U.S.A.!

And view this ILGWU singing ad from 1978.

Happy Labor Day.

May Day, Mayday!

May Day

May 1 is a very busy day.

It has been for ages a celebration of spring, with traditions including dancing around the Maypole.

It is International Workers’ Day, a labor holiday around the world. The date was set to commemorate the tragic Haymarket Riot in Chicago in 1886.

In 1921, to neutralize the socialist/communist aspects, in America it became known as Loyalty Day (originally Americanization Day). Congress and President Eisenhower officially affirmed this in 1959 at the height of the Cold War.

In 1958 President Eisenhower declared May 1 to also be Law Day.

What’s sometimes overlooked is the coincidental similarity to the international radio distress call: Mayday! Mayday! This was reportedly first used in the 1920s by pilots in France. One story has it that it comes from the French “venez m’aidez” (come help me).

Is it just a coincidence? If you are a worker, or a lawyer, or someone who feels put upon by law or lawyers, or just about anybody feeling distressed on May 1, 2014, please feel free to say it loud. Though dancing helps too.