Off Topic, but may be worth a read...

Discussion of the past and present operations of the Long Island Rail Road.

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Off Topic, but may be worth a read...

Postby Paul » Fri Apr 30, 2004 9:58 am

On the old board, for my signature quote I used a quote from August Spies who was a unionist, an abolishionist and a Haymarket Martyr. The quote was his last words as the gallows was opened. I had many requests to explain who he was. Yesterday, a friend sent me an e-mail telling (in a nut shell) the story of the Haymarket incident. I would like to share it with all.
>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
Why May 1 must be celebrated by
SIMON LIVINGSTON

The United States has the bloodiest history of labor of any
industrialized nation on Earth. It is a story rich in human drama and
tragedy. It is also one of progress and hope.

The battle for the eight-hour work day was one of the longest and most
difficult in American labor history. The fact that it is now taken for
granted and its tragic history buried is a terrible loss.

In 1884, a group of union leaders and radical activists declared that by
May 1, 1886 eight hours was to be considered a legal work day. The
resolution gained support among workers as many were forced to work 12-
and sometimes 16-hour days. Tens of thousands of workers across the
nation walked out that day protesting for the eight-hour day. The
workers at the McCormick Reaper plant outside of Chicago were among
them.

On May 3. Pinkerton guards (a private militia group hired by the
management) and police opened fire on the strikers at McCormick's plant.
Four were killed and many others wounded.

Labor leaders and other radical activists called a peaceful rally for
the next day near Haymarket Square in Chicago. After speeches by many
leaders of the movement, the day turned rainy and cold. The final
speaker was just finishing his speech when the police decided that the
crowd needed to disperse, although at this point most of the crowd had
already left.

Someone, it has never been determined who, threw a bomb into the group
of police. At this the police opened fire. They shot indiscriminately
killing and wounding many in the crowd, and very likely among the police
as well. It is in large part because of this that the actual number
killed and wounded by the bomb will never be known.

The Haymarket tragedy threw the police and the public into a frenzy.
What followed is a dark moment in the history of the U.S. justice
system.

The chief commissioner for the case fueled the public outcry by
falsifying reports of weapons seizures and staging raids on known
anarchist and labor leaders. They broke into the offices of the local
labor presses and destroyed their printing equipment. Eight labor
leaders and writers were charged with conspiracy to murder and
convicted. The prosecuting attorney at the trial said: "These men have
been selected, picked out by the grand jury and indicted because they
were leaders . . . Convict these men, make examples of them, hang them
and save our institutions." The men were not on trial, the labor
movement was.

While none of them had been present at the bombing (except one who was
on the speaker's podium), four of them were executed, one died in prison
(suicide), and three were later pardoned.

The police crackdown, the show trial, and the witch-hunt that followed
convinced labor leaders to declare May 1 an international workers' day.
May Day has been celebrated nationally and internationally since. But
the U.S.government felt threatened by the radical history of May Day,
and so it created Labor Day on Sept. 1, a day with no historical
significance.

Why celebrate May Day? May 1 is the only day to recognize the
international struggle for worker's rights. It is also a day rich in a
history that is all but forgotten today.

If we allow the struggles of the past to slip into oblivion we will be
destined to have to fight these battles again. We must remember the cost
in human lives and suffering that go into the rights that we consider so
basic and fundamental today.
Paul
"We are all here because we are not all there."
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Postby Srnumber9 » Fri Apr 30, 2004 11:33 am

"The United States has the bloodiest history of labor of any
industrialized nation on Earth"

Hmmmm...I'd like to see that backed up by hard numbers, especially in the context of a world that has had such labor friendly nations as the USSR and Nazi Germany (hey...Japan did some impressively nasty crap in it's day as well).

I'm not a blind patriot, but I am enough of a historian that I can't let that one go.
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Postby bluebelly » Fri Apr 30, 2004 5:16 pm

"The United States has the bloodiest history of labor of any
industrialized nation on Earth. "


Really? I bet the Allied POWS forced into slave labor by Japan as well as the Jews, Gypsies, Poles etc, etc forced in slave labor by the Nazis. during the Second World War would be happy to hear that.
I also guess that the working conditions in the Soviet Gulags were pleasant compared to to what the American worker had to face in the past. Oh and lets not forget the Chinese farmers who happily gave up land that was in the family for hundreds of years so they can work in the collective farms set up by Mao after the Communist Revolution
Yea the United States is the worst by far.....
Of course I guess this isn't really the place for this debate
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Postby CLiner2005 » Fri Apr 30, 2004 11:47 pm

"The United States has the bloodiest history of labor of any
industrialized nation on Earth. "

Having spent 48 years in transportation, and having walked picket lines on three occasions during that time period, the above quote indeed puzzles me (but not really).

Guess what? I'll go with the U.S.A.!!

Now, let's get back to railroading.
Pappy
St. George, UT
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Postby JFB » Sat May 01, 2004 11:20 am

The article's hyperbole is confined only to the first line. The rest is accurate, and only touches on the breadth of America's past labor problems. That other countries had it worse doesn't lessen the importance of what happened here. You can't eat relativity.

Those of us lacking a family tree rooted on the decks of the Mayflower owe much to the labor movement. America would not be a decent place to work now were it not for those century-old "agitators," and it won't be a decent place to work in the future if we pretend that fair economies come naturally.

I'm with Paul. Along with those who died to make and keep this country, let's remember those who died to make and keep it better.

Gratuitous on-topic pop-quiz:

Q:Why is the LIRR concourse at Penn Station always more crowded at 5pm than it is at 9pm?

A: Read the first post.
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Postby Srnumber9 » Sat May 01, 2004 12:20 pm

I don't think any of us have a problem with the article other than that first line. Whoever wrote it really shot himself in the foot by putting it there. Hyperbole? Yeah, you can get away with that when the exaggerations are unprovable, but not when we all know of regimes that were killing people so fast they had to develop new means for disposing of the bodies.

So I'm with Paul too. Organized labor is a good counterweight to corporate power and has actually been credited by some with saving free enterprise by making it better for workers. This is the factor that Marx never figured into his equations.

As far as the article, I can't even say I'm upset with it, since the falsehood is so blatant that it can't really do any harm. I suggest Paul repost it next year and snip that first sentence off.
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Postby Paul » Sun May 02, 2004 11:50 am

I figured the first line would cause quite the stir. We need to face some facts about the struggles of labor in America.
First, we need to exclude atrocities against human kind as committed during World War Two by Japan and Germany when talking about labor organization. Excluding these, organized labor unions in Europe faced far less violent opposition from governments because the labor unions trace their origins back at least to the 15th century and the formation of the guilds. Retirement of industrial workers at age sixty was first granted by Kaiser Wilhelm. Sounds wonderful but consider at the time (19th century) most industrial workers only lived to an age of forty-five. It also took from 1884 until 1938 to enact by Federal law the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act, mandating (among many things) the 40 hour work week.

Eugene V. Debbs tried to organize ALL railroad workers under the ARU. The strike against Pullman was broken by Federal troops, many workers were shot and killed by those troops. Debbs was falsely arrested for murder (among other charges). HE ran for president of the United States sitting in a jail cell and received well over one million votes.

Calumet Michigan, 1913, 72 children of striking copper miners were murdered on Christmas Eve by company thugs.

Henry Ford recognized the UAW after one of the longest and bloodiest organizations attempts in world history. This only after Mrs. Ford (Henry's wife) witnessed for her self some of the carnage and told Henry either he ends it or she would leave him.

The list goes on and on. As much as we wish our nation is above and beyond, quite frankly it was (and to some extant still is) historically an anti union , anti labor nation. Just look at the latest attacks on compensated over time, health care, child care, how many people who were once retired are forced back into the work place at age 65 and above becouse the loss of pention funds thru ENRON and so many others?
It isnt a pretty sight is it? Learn you labor history. The first line of the article stands.
Paul
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Postby LI Loco » Sun May 02, 2004 2:02 pm

bluebelly wrote:"The United States has the bloodiest history of labor of any
industrialized nation on Earth. "


Really? I bet the Allied POWS forced into slave labor by Japan as well as the Jews, Gypsies, Poles etc, etc forced in slave labor by the Nazis. during the Second World War would be happy to hear that.
I also guess that the working conditions in the Soviet Gulags were pleasant compared to to what the American worker had to face in the past. Oh and lets not forget the Chinese farmers who happily gave up land that was in the family for hundreds of years so they can work in the collective farms set up by Mao after the Communist Revolution
Yea the United States is the worst by far.....
Of course I guess this isn't really the place for this debate


If we are going to talk about the slavery of the Nazis, Stalinists and Maoists, then should we not also mention the 250 years of slavery of African Americans in this country?

Trying to rank which country has the worst labor relations history is meaningless, IMHO. The reality is that bosses everywhere, be the capitalist, communist or whatever, will try to get away with buying labor as cheaply as possible. We see it today in the outsourcing to places like India of white collar jobs previously performed in the USA and other western countries.

Only through struggle, i.e. organizing, forcing collective bargaining and political action, can the working man get ahead.
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Postby Srnumber9 » Sun May 02, 2004 3:08 pm

I think you are right, This discussion isn't complete without a discussion of African Slavery in the USA.

Over a million people were deprived of their freedom and packed aboard filthy crowded vessels to go to a place not of their choosing to live a life toiling for the profit of others. While in that life they were often treated with cruelty and forced to live in substandard conditions. Even after emancipation they were denied civil rights as guaranteed under the US Constiitution and their decendents are still defining their place in society. It was reprehensible, and this country is still trying to heal from it.

However, even this is fairly benevolent compared to slavery as practiced under the Soviets, the Nazis and the Japanese within and in the case of the Soviets beyond World War II. Their slavery was more like this: Capture some poor soul, put him on a starvation diet, and work him dawn till dusk seven days a week until he dies in agony(usually in some arctic or jungle hellhole as a bonus). Capture another and repeat. What makes this much worse is there is a two fold objective here: Do the work and kill the worker (and ultimately his class, race, religion) At least American slaves had the sad protection of value as property.

So you see, even putting our own slavery in the mix, our labor history still isn't the worst. I agree with others that say it's a meaningless debate just who that might have been, I just won't let it be arbitralily pinned on us without a challenge.
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Postby bluebelly » Mon May 03, 2004 8:39 am

First, we need to exclude atrocities against human kind as committed during World War Two by Japan and Germany when talking about labor organization.


Why? Because including it would mean you blanket statement about the US would be wrong. By the way you also mentioned 250 years of slavery in thls country, well that is interesting considering that the the US is 2 months shy of 228 years old and the slaves were freed 161 years ago. (I do not in anyway intended to belittle the horror of slavery , I am just stating facts)
I am not a blind patriot who believes the US does no wrong, but I will stand up for it when it is wronged.
Lets get back to the trains.
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Postby thrdkilr » Mon May 03, 2004 8:59 am

Pual, you have to be careful, our biggest problem now a days, and the problem with capitalism in general, is producers will go to where they can get their goods made at the lowest cost (outsourcing, the latest sexist term), and you help make that happen. Moderm transportation, bigger faster boats, bigger faster trains, bigger faster trucks, the modern interstate system, all this makes it a lot easier for those goods made by Chineese worker (@ .25 cents an hour) to get to our local Walmarts. All those container trains going from the port of LA to Chicago...So every time you repair one of those diesels keep this in mind.
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Postby LI Loco » Mon May 03, 2004 11:25 am

By the way you also mentioned 250 years of slavery in thls country, well that is interesting considering that the the US is 2 months shy of 228 years old and the slaves were freed 161 years ago.


U.S. history predates the Declaration of Independence. Slavery in the U.S. dates back to around 1610, shortly after British colonists settled what was to become Virginia. Over the ensuing decades its spread to other southern colonies (Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia) as they were settled and later to newly formed states and territories below the Mason Dixon line (Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri and Texas). It was not abolished until 1863 and continued in effect in the Confederate states until the end of the Civil War in 1865.
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