Labor Day is over — but Labor's Day is just starting
Last week, I wrote about how Labor Day was created in the 1880s by rebellious workers, but I'm celebrating the spirit again this week because a momentous new energy has been building in today's union movement. Indeed, renewed union rebelliousness has put labor back in Labor Day!
Previously cast as "a day off," it's now a day "on," rallying working class activism and celebrating nationwide strikes by such disparate groups as Teamsters and Hollywood actors. This is making the corporate bosses very antsy, for it's the harbinger of a new order that is undermining absolutist Boss Rule.
Particularly alarming to the plutocratic establishment is the new aggressiveness of the United Auto Workers union under their recently elected grassroots president Shawn Fain. Tossing aside the old willingness to accept incremental changes in contract negotiations, Fain began the current bargaining round by literally throwing the industry's proposal in the wastebasket, bluntly declaring that's "where it belongs."
Such honesty has spooked Detroit's auto barons, who're wailing that the workers' demands are "excessive." This from pampered CEOs each pocketing between $20 and $34 million a year in personal pay! Pathetically, the corporate establishment has had no better retort to Fain than to try its tired old Red Scare bugaboo: "This man studied Trotsky," squealed one squeamish corporatist on TV.
No. Instead, Shawn Fain has clearly studied Walter Reuther, Mother Jones, Fighting Bob La Follette, Frederick Douglas, Cesar Chavez and other American champions of economic fairness and social justice.
An important thing to know about Fain is that he was directly elected by UAW's rank and file members on a platform of in-your-face activism against top-down inequality. The big story is not that a president of one workers' organization is shaking things up, but that organized workers themselves are on the move, demanding economic democracy.
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