This and That
My Grandson: Rainbows

Not Really Labor

This is my repeating Labor Day item. One-third of the public (according to surveys) doesn’t know what day it is.

I am a life-long supporter of, believer in, student of and beneficiary of the American Labor Movement. I know writing is not really labor.

I am a beneficiary because my father, who became a Teamster after selling the family dairy and remained one for the rest of his life, was able, with just a high-school degree, to provide an upper-middle class life to our family of four which included regular vacations, a terrific pension and great medical and dental coverage. Take that, gig economy. For that matter, take that, non-union American journalism.

Alas, with the exception of three years in the Wire Service Guild at AP and UPI, and 11 years in the American Federation of Teachers as a teacher, I spent most of my working life without the protection and support of a union. The Oregon Journal, a Newhouse newspaper, was the stepchild of a bitter strike, so I worked with a staff full of scabs. Wonderful people, great journalists, but most with start dates during the strike that destroyed the paper’s independent existence.

CMP, where I spent 21 years, used to say it didn’t need a union because the company treated its employees fairly, and for the most part that was true as long as the founders were in charge—less so later.

I have been attributing the “never done any” quote to AFL-CIO leader George Meany for decades. I still contend he said it, even though the Internet disagrees. Turns out it is from G.B. Shaw’s Man and Superman.

Poet Octavius Robinson: “I believe in the dignity of labor.”

Chauffeur Enery Straker: “That's because you've never done any, Mr. Robinson.”

Some of my thoughts on labor and class.


Mark Budwill

Heather Cox Richardson posted a note on the origins of Labor Day in her Letters From An American thread on September 3rd. She also posts it on Facebook. Fascinating history...She always relates things to history rather than politics, and I learn a LOT from her...

Robert E. Malchman

I was a union member for one year when I was teaching at SUNY Buffalo. All those vampires did was suck money from me. They added ZERO value to my job or my life. I don't know that they were corrupt, but functionally, when you take people's money and give them nothing, that's usually the definition of corruption.

Another anecdote: When I was a federal appellate court clerk, the WORST cases I ever had to deal with were labor-law cases. Everybody lied (labor and management). The parties' papers misrepresented the facts and the law. I worked harder on labor law cases than on any other because of the dishonest characters on both sides. And Labor shot itself in the foot with me; had they NOT LIED OVER AND OVER AND OVER, if they had established any kind of credibility with me, I would have recommended ruling in their favor. Instead, they made me look into every claim and defense, and the chips fell where they might. So not only were the labor lawyers lying sacks of excrement (as were their management opponents), they shot themselves in the foot with me by doing so. Dishonest and stupid -- sounds like Trump, doesn't it? But it was Labor.

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