Monday, September 3, 2012

Guest Commentary: Labor - What Side Are You On?

With great thankfulness, most of our staff has most of today - Labor Day - off from their primary responsibilities to this publication. That said, the world doesn't stop just because a few people get the day off today. So there is a new Daily Felltoon cartoon, especially for those who might otherwise be out protesting today as "Anti-Union Day," and a new abbreviated complete edition which will be delivered via e-mail Monday morning as well.

For all those Americans still working in retail establishments, working at hospitals, those working in the military, fire, or police protection fields - and anyone else still slaving away today - thank you. We hope if you have the day off, you'll treat those still working with a bit more respect - and maybe a larger-than-normal tip - on this holiday.

For our part, we're giving great thanks today to Shannyn Moore, a friend and professional contact of one of our staff members. Shannyn is kindly allowing us to re-run part of her fantastic Labor Day commentary - one we think you should definitely read in it's entirety.

Enjoy. And Happy Labor Day.


Labor: What Side Are You On? - By Shannyn Moore

“You might be a redneck…” is the now-classic opening joke line for rural America. The true historic meaning of “redneck” was lost long ago to jokes about trailers and family reunion dating games.

Exactly 91 years ago this week, an estimated 15,000 coal miners in Logan County, West Virginia formed an armed militia to fight back against an army of police and strikebreakers backed by abusive coal operators. They wore red bandanas around their necks to identify themselves-thus the term, “redneck”. Habeas corpus was suspended. Over 100 people were killed, hundreds more wounded and 985 were arrested. Today, people still find old, abandoned weapons in the woods — a stark reminder of the Battle of Blair Mountain.

The year before, in 1920, detectives from Baldwin-Felts (think Blackwater) arrived via the morning train in Matewan, West Virginia to evict families living at the Stone Mountain Coal Camp. After forcing several families from their homes, the detectives ate dinner and then walked back to the train station. Matewan Police Chief Sid Hatfield, an ardent supporter of the miners’ struggle to organize, intervened on their behalf. Chief Hatfield attempted to arrest the evictors from Baldwin-Felts. Detective Albert Felts countered with an arrest warrant for Hatfield. Matewan Mayor Cabell Testerman cried foul. All the while, struggling armed miners quietly surrounded the detectives. The ensuing clash, which killed ten, including the Felts brothers and Mayor Testerman, became known as the Matewan Massacre and was a turning point for miners’ rights. Unfortunately today, the Matewan Massacre is but a footnote in history.

Six years earlier, on April 20, 1914, the Colorado National Guard attacked a tent city of 1,200 striking mine workers, riddling their canvas tents with machine guns. Dozens were killed including two women and 11 children who suffocated and burned to death in Colorado’s Ludlow Incident. Nearly 200 more would die in the strike. They rest in anonymity. The mining company evicted workers and their families and they were forced to live in tents that winter. Historian Howard Zinn described the Ludlow Massacre as “the culminating act of perhaps the most violent struggle between corporate power and laboring men in American history.”

All across the country, unions have been under a coordinated and unprecedented assault. People have forgotten US labor history along with the significance of the red bandanas as they have forgotten why unions are so important and necessary. Unions have pushed for safer working standards and living wages. Anti-union folks want to race to the bottom — as a Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann campaigned on lowering the minimum wage.  State legislatures across the country introduced legislation to lower the minimum wage.

You needn’t look any further than the 2010 West Virginia mining disaster to understand why unions are needed more than ever...  (To read the rest of this commentary, CLICK HERE.)

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