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Monday, September 5, 2016

Labor Day 2016

Editorial Note: portions of this essay have appeared previously here on Stonekettle Station.



Labor Day.

Earlier this month, when a football player didn’t stand for the National Anthem a certain segment of the population puffed up its fleshy chest and declared what an offense that was to veterans.

Veterans?

As if veterans were the only people who built this country – and I say that as a veteran myself.

Why is it no one is outraged on behalf of American laborers when someone disrespects the symbols of America?

 

What?

 

Yes, I digress.

So, it’s Labor Day.

You ever stop to wonder what your life would be like if you lived a hundred years ago?

Imagine.

Imagine what it was like to be your great grand parents.

In 1915, the United States was in the middle of the Second Industrial Revolution.  It was a time of wonder and ever advancing technology. It started in the 1860’s and would last right up until the beginning of World War I. It began with steel, the Bessemer process to be specific, a cheap and easy way to mass produce strong and reasonably lightweight metals.  Strong lightweight steel was the skeleton of the modern age, the core of everything from the new cars to steamships and oil rigs to utensils and lunchboxes, to the machines that manufactured the future.  A few years before, in 1911, a tall skinny fellow by the name of Eugene Ely landed a Curtiss #2 Pusher on the deck of USS Pennsylvania and took off again – and thus was born naval aviation, a profound moment that would change the very way wars were fought and thus change almost everything else too and the effects of which are still being felt to this very day.  If you were moderately wealthy, you could buy a Cadillac with an electric starter. Despite the fact that there were still plenty of horses out there on the roads, the car had become so ubiquitous and affordable that Michigan created the first modern roads when the state started painting white lines down the middle of the more heavily traveled avenues.  Though many factories were still powered by steam, electricity was no longer a novelty.  The first modern public elevator began operation in London, England, and soon became common everywhere – leading directly to the modern city skyline.  America was booming. Her factories were churning out new products at a record pace. The western frontier had all but disappeared – oh, there were still a few bandits and cattle rustlers out there, but the wild woolly west was long gone.  The gold rushes, the boom towns and gun fights were long over.  Hell, by 1915 Wyatt Earp was living in Hollywood and working as a consultant for the new movie industry. 

It was certainly a marvelous time.

If you could afford it.

If you lived through it.

See, those churning factories were horrible places.  In 1915, most were still powered by a massive central steam engine which drove an enormous flywheel, which in turn powered shafts and belts and pulleys, which finally powered the machines.  And though, as noted above, electricity was becoming increasingly common, most of those factories were dark and poorly lit – typically illumination was sunlight through skylights and banks of single pane glazed windows.  Often boiling hellholes in the summer and freezing dungeons in the winter – both air conditioning and central heating were still decades away and all those single pane windows didn’t do much to keep out either the cold or the heat. Those factories were filled with smoke and poisonous fumes from the various manufacturing processes, lead vapor, heavy metals, acids, chlorine, bleaches, all were common.  Normal working hours were from dawn to dusk, typically anywhere from twelve to fourteen hours a day, sixty and seventy hours per week for wages that would barely pay the rent and put food on a factory worker’s table.

Child labor was common, especially in the textile industry, though in some states there were supposed to be laws regulating it.  The kids toiled right alongside their parents.  The children typically worked the same hours as adults, but for a quarter, or less, of the pay.  Pictures of the time show children working barefoot among the machines, ragged sleeves flapping near the flying belts and spinning pulleys.  Whole families hired out to the factories, the men doing the heavy labor, the women and children doing the more delicate tasks. Towns sprang up around the mills, often controlled by the factory owners. Company towns, where workers very often became little more than indentured servants.  Life in a company town was often better than the alternative on the streets of places like Hell’s Kitchen or out in the fields of the South. Company towns gave workers a higher standard of living than they would otherwise be able to afford. But the running joke was that while your soul might belong to God, your ass belonged to the company.  Mill towns and mining towns and factory towns and logging towns were common across America, places where the company owned everything from your house to your job to the church you prayed in to the store you bought your food from. And prices were whatever made the company the most profit and in many places there were laws that prevented you from renting or buying outside the company town.  The company might pay you a decent wage for the time, but they got a lot of it back too.  Get crosswise of the company and you lost it all.  Get injured on the job and could no longer work, and you lost it all. Get sick, and you could lose it all.  Get killed, and your family was out on the street.  There was no workman’s comp. No insurance. No retirement but what you managed to save – and since you probably owed a significant debt to the company store, your savings were unlikely to go very far.

Of course, you could always take a pass on factory work and return to the land.  In 1915, millions of Americans were farmers.  Farming was hard back breaking work (it still is, just in a different way) – so hard that seventy hours a week in a smoke filled factory with a high probability of getting maimed or killed looked pretty good in comparison.  Most of those farmers, especially in the South, didn’t own their fields. They were sharecroppers, living in conditions little better than slavery or the serfdom of the Dark Ages.  Of the small farmers who did own their own land or rather owed the bank for their own land, more than half lived in abject poverty.  In the coming decade, the decade of the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl, most would lose everything.

Most of America was powered by coal in those days and if there was anything that would make life in a factory town or in the sweltering fields look good – it was working in a West Virginia coal mining town.  It was a race to see what would kill you first, explosion, cave-in, or the black lung.  And just like in the fields and factories, children worked alongside their parents – if they had parents, orphanages were also common. And orphan labor was even cheaper than the average child, both in life and in pay. Renting out orphan labor was a good gig, if you could get it.

You could always become a merchant seaman, though life at sea was damned rough. You could move west and become a logger, though you’d probably live longer in the mines of West Virginia. You could still be a cowboy, or a cop, or carpenter none which paid worth a good Goddamn and had the added benefit of a short lifespan.

Since people got sick and injured a lot, and most couldn’t afford even rudimentary medical care, many turned to patent medicines.  The pharmaceutical industry was only loosely regulated, but by 1915 there were some few laws in a handful of states regulating the more outrageous claims for the various elixirs. The big medicine shows were gone, but there were still plenty of drug store shelves stocked with hundreds of varieties of patent medicines. Some were mostly benign, like Coca-Cola. And some were downright toxic, like Radithor, made from water and radium.  As late as 1917, The Rattlesnake King, Clark Stanley, was still making Stanley’s Snake Oil, a worthless mixture of mineral oil, turpentine, and red pepper, and fleecing sick people out of their money and making them yet sicker (hell, as late as the 1960’s TV’s commercials touted the benefits of smoking for sore throats. And, as late as 1970 there were still X-ray foot measuring devices that would give you cancer in use in a handful of shoe stores across America).

In 1915, only a few states mandated that your kids attend school, and then only through elementary.  In the South segregation and Jim Crow Laws were in full force and civil rights were decades away. Lynching was common.  On the other hand, women could actually vote in exactly five states, well, six if you included California which grudgingly acknowledged in November that females might be citizens too despite their unfortunate plumbing. 

In 1915, maybe three out of ten Americans could ever expect to own a home, most would pay a landlord their whole lives. Few had any rights in those relationships either, you paid the owner and you lived with what you got or you got thrown out. Period.

In 1915, a lot of Americans were hungry. More than fifty percent of seniors lived in poverty, but then the average lifespan was only about fifty-five, maybe sixty if you hadn’t been breathing coal dust or lead vapor all your life.  Few of those seniors had pensions, most lived on the charity of their families – if they were lucky enough to have families.  Sanatoriums were a common place for the aged and infirm to spend their brief final years. 

In 1915, if you had ten kids, you might expect six of them to survive to adulthood.  If you were lucky. Polio, tuberculosis, measles, mumps, pneumonia, whooping cough, hard labor in the mines and factories and fields, lack of social safety nets, lack of proper nutrition, lead paint, food poisoning, poverty, orphaned by parents killed by the same, would probably claim at least four of those kids. Likely more.

People from that generation always wax nostalgic for The Good Old Days – and then they immediately proceed to tell you why life was so much harder and more miserable back then.

The simple truth of the matter is nowadays we Americans live a pretty damned good life.  And we live that good life because since 1915 we’ve put systems and laws and regulations in place to improve life for all of us.  Programs like Social Security and Medicare have a direct and measurable effect on how long we live, and how well. Regulations governing working conditions and workplace safety have a direct and measurable effect on the probability that we’ll survive to retirement.  Laws that prevent the rich from owning a whole town, or abusing workers, or turning them into indentured servants, or hiring children at pauper’s wages to maintain the machines in their bare feet, have directly benefitted all but the most greedy few. 

The American dream isn’t dead, far from it. 

I’ve been to countries where dreams have died, America is far, far, far removed those hellish places. 

It is a measure of just how far we’ve come, and just how big an impact that those laws, regulations, and social safety programs have had that those who directly benefit from those very same laws, regulations, and programs can complain with full bellies just how terrible they have it.

Things like Social Security, Medicare, Workman’s Compensation Insurance, The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance, child labor laws, federal minimum wage, occupational health and safety standards, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Centers for Disease Control, The departments of Education and Health, Labor Unions and workers’ rights, and yes, even Welfare, all of these things were created for a reason. For a good reason. For compelling reason. 

These things were created because when you leave it up to the church and charity to feed the hungry and clothe the poor and heal the sick, a hell of a lot of people go hungry and cold and ill.  It is really just that brutally simple. 

These things were created because when you leave it up to charity and family to take care of old people, a hell of a lot of old people end up stacked like cordwood in institutions. The moldering remnants of such places are all around us.

These things were created because when you leave it up to people to save for their retirement or a rainy day or for accident and infirmity, a hell of a lot of them don’t, or can’t, or won’t.

These things were put in place because when you leave it solely up to the market to weed out poor products and fake medicine and unsafe machines, the market doesn’t, or can’t, or won't, and it’s perfectly happy to go right on killing people for profit.

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to industrialists and share holders to treat their workers with dignity and respect and to pay them a living wage for their hard work, you get indentured servitude.

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to devoutly righteous people who go to church every Sunday to decide what is right and proper and moral, you end up with lynchings and segregation and Jim Crow. And that is a Goddamned fact.

These things were put in place because when you leave it up to the factory owners to decide wages and safety and working hours, you get this:

When you leave it solely up to bankers and the factory owners and the industrialists and the politicians, well Sir, then what happens is they end up owning it all and you get the privilege of paying them to eat out of their garbage can.

And for most of history, right up until very recently, that’s exactly how it was.

Fundamentally, government exists to protect the weak from the ruthless, otherwise what damned good is it?

Lately there are a lot of folks who think they want to live in 1915, rather than in 2015.

The question you need to ask yourself, on this of all days, is what century do you want to live in?

75 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing this. All of the progress you cite came because of the efforts of union organizers. The stagnation of wages can be traced directly to the loss of union membership and the so called "Right to Work".

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  2. And just when, and why, did most of these conditions change?
    When workers organized and put pressure on politicians to curb the abuses and institute new rules.
    "Unions? Who needs 'em!"
    You and me, pal. You and me.

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    1. Agree. Now, to teach the bobbleheads - can we?

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    2. I just like to point out that manufacturing jobs were crappy jobs, until we all got together to change that. There is no magic that makes working in a factory a better job then flipping a burger. It's the wages and benefits people miss- not standing on an assembly line. Those wages and benefits weren't just given to workers because factories made owners money. They were fought for. For decades. Until owners found out that they could go somewhere else and make other people work in crappy conditions for little pay.
      Now those people are learning to fight back too, and we have forgotten how.

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  3. Right on as always Jim. Thank the Unions!

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  4. Great summation of what we have come through in the last century, Jim. Wonderful!

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  5. Reality in the spoken word. I relate to this so much because my Grandfather was one of those deep miners who worked in Scranton, PA after coming from Wales. He went into the mines at 9 years old and worked there for close to 60 years. He was one of the lucky ones who managed to survive almost twice as long as most miners. He and his wife had 16 children of which about 8 survived into adulthood. My grandmother baked and sold bread from her kitchen until she was 87 years old just to help make their life a little easier. The Depression was the ultimate challenge to their lives and many sacrifices had to be made. Anyone who wants to go back to those days has no idea what a miserable existence many people went through. Thank God for the labor movements in this country and for the people who stepped up to put in place regulations and laws that helped people escape out of this life. Great article Jim and a recommended read for those who think Government is the problem.

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    1. I, too am from Scranton and remember the mines, the mills, the railroads and the stories of friends and family members. And somehow, through it all our families did everything to make our lives better. I just wish I had the opportunity to thank them again.

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    2. We are living in the "good ole days"... My family comes from the coal mines of West Virginia (East Bank) where a 14 hour day was common and you spent half your salary to feed your pack mule so you did not break your back carrying the 25 tons or more of coal you mined each and every day 7 days a week.... grandpa was lucky, he lived to the ripe old age of 77 (the last 15 suffering from black lung and emphazima) but still the stories he told of the days in the mines were awe inducing... hours upon hours he would tell the stories of near death experiences (repeated repeatedly in his old age) and we children would listen with mouths agap to this many splindly told stories... but as I said at the beginning we are now living in the "good ole days"...

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    3. I too am from West Virginia. In addition to my dad and our ancestors working in the mines, I have spent a bit of time underground myself while earning a degree in Mining Engineering (more than a couple decades ago.) I've spent years researching and writing about conditions, company stores, company towns, and the vast disparity in conditions between them. You speak the truth, Sir, when you discuss the conditions that existed in those mines. Thank you for that wonderful essay. Now, if only we could get some of those union-busting politicians and businesses to get it. Unfortunately, the businesses get rich in the absence of unions, and they share that wealth in only one way - paying off politicians to make sure the laws continue to favor them.

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  6. A tour de force... Brilliant as always, Jim. Thanks for your efforts to remind people what this day is really about, and in the process reaffirming the value of our society's decisions to improve living standards, even save lives.

    After almost six decades on this planet, with at least four of them devoted to understanding political systems here and around the world, I remain baffled as to why a substantial number of Americans have actually fooled themselves into believing that life a century ago was somehow better, more virtuous, more decent, blah blah gazpacho blah (apologies). It almost beggars belief. I just shudder to think what it might take to turn #TFP around.

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  7. My home was owned by a woolen company that is now a tech center. The front 'Yard' is a man made pond used to power the looms. From talking to the old folks I'd say you pretty much covered it.

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  8. I think that you would be a great history/social studies teacher. I'm sure you don't remember my comment months ago asking if you had thought about running for president. You mentioned how you couldn't gather consensus from those whom you have no respect for and how you would be a great troubleshooter, but not temperamentally suited for The Chair. I have gathered that you're in your 50's and enjoying your "retirement" in Florida, but I sense that you feel that your work isn't yet finished, ergo, your blog. I have shared your essays with the more reasonable of my friends, but I feel that the audience that most needs your message is teetering on the edge of the flat earth that they have ideologically painted themselves onto. The question that I lead up to is this: How do we close this chasm? How do we come back from the edge of this abyss that you so eloquently describe in your writings? It's one thing to point out the problem, as I have said many times to my more hard-line friends, but what is the solution? How can we come together if the Right keeps dragging the center away from the Left? Compromise has become a dirty word and capitulation seems to be the goal for too many of my fellow Americans. What do we do? Thanks, Jim, for all of your efforts. Cory

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    1. Cory,
      Jim is an independent woodshop worker/crafter living in Alaska.

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    2. I am aware of his artwork, but he no longer lives in AK.

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    3. Did you miss all of his posts about the move to Florida?

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    4. "Jim Wright is a retired US Navy Chief Warrant Officer and freelance writer. He lived longer in Alaska than anywhere else and misses it terribly. He recently moved to the fetid Panhandle of Florida and lives now in an ancient Cold War bunker of a house surrounded by alligators and rednecks." I wish that I could afford or had need for the art that he produces, but I don't knit, nor does anyone I know, but his writing is enough for me and I will just soak up this wisdom for as long as I'm allowed.

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  9. Thank you. You have said what needs to be said - there were no "good old days" that we should return to - we're living in good times that won't be improved by giving carte blanche to corporations that seek profits over people's lives and health. You give a voice to all of us regular people.

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  10. 1915 was roughly when my grandfather went down into the coal mines of South Yorkshire. He survived cave ins and all kinds of nasty stuff. Black lung helped to kill him. He vowed his son would never have to do that. Socialized higher education after the war gave my dad an engineering degree in the aerospace industry he collected up his sweetheart and came to North America. During visits back to England my father made a point of going to the little church in Yorkshire where the memorial in the enclosed link is. It is a memorial to 26 children that were killed in a coal mine disaster in the 1800s....children that were working in the mine. The youngest was 7. That was the "good old days" http://www.rootschat.com/forum/index.php?topic=272049.0

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    1. That formatting ended up weird. It was not intentional.

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  11. Right on the money as usual. Happy Labor Day from a retired Union Steelworker.

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  12. Don't forget that garment workers in cities could get the whole family to do piece work in their tenement.

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  13. Perfect, Jim. My mother was born in 1914 on the prairie of North Dakota and died 16 days short of her 99th birthday. Her life story-her survival-is a testament not only to her bravery and toughness, but also to the vast improvements you enumerated above. She never once yearned for a return to the years of her youth.
    Mary Ann Jones

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  14. I concur with Cory Holmes.

    What we can do is vote, and encourage those of like mind to vote. When people of sound mind vote, we win. When we win, we start changing society from one run by self-aggrandizers to those with flexible minds, capable of dealing with tough problems by shaping to achieve desirable outcomes for the Country, not solely for their moneyed patrons. We desperately need leadership that cares about the Country, not just themselves and their "friends." The only way we can do that is: 1) Work toward attracting honorable, capable, thinking people to public office, from every small commission and board to the Presidency, 2) Help them hone their message so that it appeals to rational, logical thinking adults, 3) Translate their messages into tiny bite-sized bits so we can re-educate those "hard-line" friends Cory Holmes mentions, and 4) Help our neighbors get registered and to vote, at every opportunity, for people who are honorable, forthright, and representative of the people's life needs.

    In other words, become more active in our own governance than the woe-begotten TEA Partiers and their ilk.

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  15. You must get tired of hearing how excellent your writing is. Just kidding, as an author myself (not nearly as well known), I appreciate every kind word.
    This is a much-needed reminder for so many people, who don't remember this part of history--or were never taught about it. We need, NEED, to have our blue collar workers. They are doing the work that needs to be done to keep our country moving, the work that many don't want to do, so they are willing to pay someone else to do it.
    There is no shame in blue collar work. My ex-father-in-law was employed at Burroughs, as a lithographer. That's a highly trained, highly skilled job that is not available to any Johnny Off the Street. I think people tend to forget that a lot of "blue collar" work does require training. (See the re-opening of vocational schooling occurring now as people need jobs and there's only so many office jobs open.)
    The only thing I might have added to your essay is this warning: given the current state of our economy and the GOP's desire to tear down all of the services and laws put into effect to protect the workers--we could end up back in the 1900s work places. With smart phones to take pictures of the conditions.
    Hooray for the blue collar worker, the unsung hero of civilization!

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  16. My granddad was injured working in the woods back in the thirties. He got hurt, ended up in the local hospital (Catholic for what its worth). Of course he couldn't pay the bill and the good sisters took their house. Finally ended up renting a flea bag hotel in Eugene for a little money and a place to live.

    My dad started as a farmer. Ended up a logger. By the time his knees and back gave out in the sixties after twenty five years he'd been clipped by a widowmaker (I'm betting you know what that is), got his foot run over by a cat, broke his thumb, was second loading a truck and got knocked over and a log rolled over his leg and so on. Twenty five years and he was tossed aside like an old boot. We moved back to Springfield (Oregon) and mom landed a state paid gig cooking in a dorm kitchen. Earned a fairly decent pension doing it.

    Yeah, those were the good old days alright.

    BTW have you read Clarence Darrow for the Defense by Irving Stone?

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    1. Logging is still a dangerous industry but at one time only combat had a higher casualty rate.

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    2. It was late forties, early fifties local company lost four men on the cutting crew in one accident. That's ten thousand hours per worker against their workman's comp. And their goes their insurance. Company got out of the logging end, kept the mill and contracted for ab independent company to take the risks.

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  17. Tremendous essay
    It should be pointed out that many of the changes for the better that you have listed came about because of labor unions.
    Unions who protested injustices and intolerable conditions in ways that many at the time found disturbing and distasteful. But that's what it took.
    Funny thing that. No?

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  18. There's no doubt we're living in the good old days right now but need to make sure to keep moving forward and not backslide. It's thanks to the unions and activists of the past that I am able to be retired now and not working until I drop dead. Thanks for a great article, Jim.

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  19. Hi Jim,
    Awesome history lesson for those who have forgotten. Most of this was skimmed in our history books. The school board deleted the children who spent their lives in toil as cheap labour. I wish more people would READ! The History of the World is an excellent opus regarding war, agriculture, and politics. From the beginning of time people. We have it easy by comparison. Respect has been replaced by this political correctness. Turning humans into steam powered and bad tempered ogres, over anything that doesn't suit their fancy.

    Thank you again for always setting the record straight. Daresay I, that there is a small percentage who may actually think rather than react to your essay.

    When history's monuments, both natural and manmade are destroyed by people - it leaves the rest of us with a foreboding sense of chagrin.

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  20. Thank you for this. People who want to tear down a century of progress and betterment for all (I know we're not even close to the end of the line there, but we're a hell of a lot further then we were) are beyond my comprehension.

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  21. When I check that box and call you a god, I mean it! Thank you for sharing your perspectives with those of us without your talent!

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  22. And most of these changes were brought about by the blood sweat and tears of the early labor unions. Many people either forget or don't know that the reason unions came into being was to curb many of the abuses that occurred in factory work and mining operations. The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire was the final straw before at least rudimentary rules were put in place regarding access to fire escapes in case of fire. Many of those women died because the owners locked the doors to all but the front entrance, making it impossible for anyone to get out.
    Unions for the mining industry allowed workers the dignity of being able to work to put their hard earned money into their own pockets-not the mine owners.
    It's been said before, but unions did create the weekend and child labor laws and the concept of a living wage.
    Unions are still sometimes the only thing standing between many people and abject poverty and I hope that more people wake up and see that. I know the difference between teaching in a union school and a nonunion school, and there is no comparison. Not in salary, definitely not in benefits, and in basic support, unions can't be beat.

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  23. 1915 was about the time my grandfather and grandmother immigrated from Yugoslavia/Czechoslovakia and changed the family name from Von Kraushaaur to Kirley. I often wondered "What possessed him to decide on the name Kirley?" but in our current political climate I think I get it. It was a bad time to have a German sounding name in the U.S. and Kirley has no clear ethnic connection.

    So much was the same then, and working conditions were so different but we are backsliding some. We still have unsafe working conditions in many places, and agencies are stressed with low funding to prosecute business owners and correct the problems.

    Still, I have also been on deployments during which I also saw a lot to compare us to. We really are in a great country and we should be careful to keep our eyes on what's important, but we also need to take care not to allow backsliding due to political pressure.

    Thank you Jim! Brilliantly said, as usual.

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  24. My great-grandmother had 13 live births in 18 pregnancies. Of those 13, 3 lived to adulthood. Her oldest boy was killed in WWII. Most of her babies died before they were 4. I used to stay with her. She would tell me about her babies. One was Guy. He lived to be 4. She told me "I always knew he was too good to keep".

    Imagine having to be pregnant 18 times in your life... Only to have most of the babies die before they were 5.

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  25. Jim, if not President Wright, could we have a Cabinet Secretary maybe !?!

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    1. Secretary of Freaking Common Sense, maybe.

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  26. Outstanding, again. lThose who forget history are doomed to repeat it!

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  27. Our two eldest grandchildren who reside in Wisconsin visited us shortly after Scott Walker's election as governor, and protests against his efforts to obliterate unions in his state were receiving nationwide attention. We asked grandchildren if they were supporting the protestors in any way. To our horror, they both shrugged, said no, they weren't union members so it didn't affect them none. Ever since, we've been sending educational materials to them, and we think they are catching on. Thanks for this excellent piece, it will be added to their reading material.

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  28. Another excellent well written essay Jim. Now if only I could figure out how to send #TFP who long for the good old days back to 1915. Where is a time machine when I need it :)

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  29. This is what they mean when they promise to "take our country back."

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  30. Yes, somethings may be better now but in 1920 (when my father was 10), 30+ percent of the population were farmer's growing real food (without glyphosate and GMOs and living a simple life. Unions changed some industry for the better-for a while...I have a friend who is an OSHA agent and she sees deadly working conditions every week and the companies pay their meager fines and continue with their practices...Not to mention nuclear waste....

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  31. Another excellent read, thank you, Jim.
    One small typo still found: lead vapor all you life --> all your life.

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  32. You might not want the top job, Jim, not everyone has the patience and mind-set for the job. You might want to keep the grey hair in check, I don't know. But you could make it as a Senator, I bet, and still have time to turn wood and rub cats' bellies.

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  33. In all the labor union struggles and the political work to bring about the changes Jim Wright mentions, was disrespecting the flag or the national anthem ever a part of it? The first I remember flag-burning was during the Vietnam War protests and I think it did the protesters more harm than good, working only to divert the message from what they really wanted -- pulling out of Vietnam.
    Dennis Kiernan

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    1. With apologies, what's that got to do with this article?

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    2. Beginning of article: "Why is it no one is outraged on behalf of American laborers when someone disrespects the symbols of America?"

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    3. I see.
      Your only issue with any of this article is a through away line, or did you not read past it?

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    4. "If a jerk burns a flag, America is not threatened. If a
      jerk burns a flag, democracy is not under siege. If a
      jerk burns a flag, freedom is not at risk and we are
      not threatened. My colleagues, we are offended; and
      to change our Constitution because someone offends
      us is, in itself, unconscionable,"
      -- Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-New York)

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    5. I'd add to that.
      If a jerk makes his employees work on the one damn day WE celebrate the victories of labor, WE actually are under siege, and WE are actually threatened.
      Those were hard won "entitlements", and yes people died for those too.

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    6. fng, I have no issue with the article. And I have no idea what your quote about changing the Constitution is all about.

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    7. fng, Also, I wd not call that line a "through away line" (sic).

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    8. The (gratefully) defeated 1990 proposed amendment to basically add the flag code to the U.S. Constitution.
      While I agree that any protest involving the anthem, or flag is counterproductive. I'll also note that Mr. Kaepernick's jersey is currently the best selling jersey in the NFL, and that a U.S. Women's National Team player has joined in his protest. Seems he has struck something inside a lot of people.

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  34. Hear, hear! The ones who want to bring back the "good old days" are always convinced that they will be members of the upper crust, reaping the benefits, not struggling for the crumbs.

    That Other Jean

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  35. Godfuckingdammit!! You did it again...!!!

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  36. Things like Social Security, Medicare, Workman’s Compensation Insurance, The Federal Reserve, Federal Deposit Insurance, child labor laws, federal minimum wage, occupational health and safety standards, the Environmental Protection Agency, The Centers for Disease Control, The departments of Education and Health, Labor Unions and workers’ rights, and yes, even Welfare, all of these things were created for a reason.
    ---

    Damn that big government!

    Excellent, as usual, Mr Wright.
    bd

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  37. Preach it Jim! You hit it out of the park...again.

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  38. Yeah, but I hear 1815 was a great time to be a white middle class American male...

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  39. Excellent as usual, Jim. This should be required reading for every fuzz-brained Free Marketeer and Libertarian out there!

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  40. I enjoy your observations, and will share this one. Thank you.

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  41. Amen. This is brilliant, as usual.

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  42. Thank you for the history lesson--as far as it went. I can understand why you hesitated to include the labour movement in this essay as it might have turned into a book. I would point out that we can observe what happens when Big Oil and Big Mining are allowed to operate uncontrolled by the rule of law: just check out what is happening in South America and Africa right now. Sadly, outright corruption has trumped(did I say that?) fair employment and tax standards.

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  43. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TImbf8AoWTI

    Thanks for keeping on keeping on.

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  44. A new follower who is becoming an avid junkie. Have you ever discusses Civics 101? If so, could you direct me to that installment? Much appreciated Sir

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  45. there are none so blind as who WILL NOT see, and so many look around and say, "wasn't it always like this?". I have a friend, a Libertarian, who believes the government should get out of the "charity business", and that unions "ruined the country", etc. Meanwhile, he's surrounded with over a hundred years of progress in a quiet suburban neighborhood, with every modern creature comfort and an automatic safety net, and doesn't think how it all got there. I've said to him, "no man is an island", but I don't think he understood...

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    1. Exactly! My Dad was born in 1911. He always said, these are the good old days.
      Most Libertarians I no were raised in privilege.
      I was a carpenter, the last 6 years I worked, at a VA hospital. One of the guys used to work with was totally pissed off about paying taxes. He worked for the VA since the 70s!
      How do you make that disconnect?
      As a private sector worker most of my life, his attitude used to facilitate me!

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  46. Thank you for reminding us what Labor Day really is about. For myself, I would never want to live in any other country, or any other century. Because I am female, and NEVER in history did women have what I have. Freedom.
    Blessed be, Mr. Wright.

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  47. Thanks for the reminder Jim. When I got out of the service in the fall 71 I worked with my Dad for a few years till he retired. We did shoe repair. Dad was born in 1911. He always said "these are the good old days".
    He talked about working road construction in the 30s and said they treated the mules better then the men! When I bought a Monarch wood cook stove He looked at me like I had two heads. He did learn to enjoy it because there was a gas stove next to it!
    When we put new soles on shoes we did it with a Landis Stitcher, it was fun. But He liked to remind me that, that was all down by hand with an awl and a waxed end. That's why when you see pictures of shoe makers or shoe repairman, they have very large hands.
    My uncles talked about working the land with horses, milking by hand and pitching cow shit by hand.
    There was a large brick house across the ally from the shop (we lived above the shop) that pops told me a guy built after he sold his farm. He sold the house 2 days before the crash of 29. There he was, no house, and no money.
    The good old days, yeah right.
    That's why young libertarians amuse me. They want the good old days, 50 dollars a week and all the hours you want.

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  48. You remind those of us why "the good 'Ol Days" weren't so "good" as some keep trying to convince us for several decades now. He comprehensively outlines the facts and conditions in this country's history that it would seem many have either forgotten, or maybe never learned. He clearly articulates the very good reasons why many of our institutions and regulations exist, the same ones many want to eliminate. I guess they want to repeat our history so they can remember why we have the governmental protections, regulations and statutory laws that exist today.

    The rich, greedy, self-righteous and unsavory characteristics of human nature understandably abhor regulation and restrictions that limit the ability to exploit other human beings.

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