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 of a 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 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, 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 by there own Union leaders and left demoralized and forced to either carry on the fight by themselves, or capitulate to the boss. Even today, with millions out of work and rapidly deteriorating workplace conditions, Union leaders often appear more interested in the next election cycle than they are with the real concerns of their shrinking membership base. Worse than that, they seem to have completely forgotten the millions of workers who are unorganized, and must face the boss totally alone. With bosses taking full advantage of “hard times” by putting our working conditions in a “race to the bottom”, and the old unions no-where to be found, perhaps its time to build a new labor movement.
This movement will have to be unafraid to flex the muscles of Solidarity and Direct Action to win demands and protect the interests of workers. It cannot allow itself to be divided by Craft and Trade like the old unions, and will have to banish from its midst racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination for these blights on humanity only serve to isolate workers from each other, a situation very favorable for the boss. Most importantly, it must aggressively seek to reach out, mobilize and organize the millions of “unorganized” workers. If the movement expects to see any success, it will have to throw out the old idea of the “unorganizable worker” found in minimum wage part-time service sector jobs, and working as “temps” on construction sites and offices.
This kind of movement cannot be instituted from the top-down, and cannot have bosses. The movement will only defend the interests of the rank and file workers for as long as the rank and file control it from the bottom-up, democratically. In order to grow strong roots it will need room to include not just current wage workers, but all those that where, those that will be, and those that labor without pay. Simply put, all those folks who find themselves powerless in this chaotic society must work together to forge a new one. It must mirror in its’ structure the kind of society we wish to build, one empty of hierarchy and full of democracy.
Perhaps you’ve found the crumbs, however frequently dropped from marble tables, never seem to fill your empty stomach. Let it be known that others have tired of the crumbs as well, and wish to get the whole cake instead. Feel free to contact us to learn more about how to fight your boss at work, to find out more about and anarchism and working class struggle, or just to discuss the situation further.
Workers Solidarity Alliance