Friday, September 04, 2009

594 Labor Day

594 Labor Day

Murray the carpenter foreman is behind his desk in a construction shack on the roof of a building on the east side. He is smoking a Lucky and eating a meatball hero and not doing much carpenting. Between bites and puffs he reminds us that "Labor Day is an import. Can you beat that? An IMPORT!"

Yes, Labor Day or something a whole lot like it started in Ontario in the 1870s. It sprang from the Canadian labor movement, the unions and was imported to this country something like 140 years ago, give or take. Murray says "...this holiday's for the union guys. Let's not forget that. We used to march on Fifth Avenue every year. The parade took hours, hours!"

He's asked about non-union laborers. The answer is neither air-able nor printable.

Even in the organized labor center of the American universe, there's been a long down slide of union membership. And even without the shrinking numbers, membership ain't what it used to be.

"We gave up a lot of clout," he says. "We gave up the ability to shut a job down in a strike. We strike now, they just fire us and replace us and we take them to court and lose half the time. The judges? Company property in a lot of cases."

"Thing is," he continues, "people just don't know what they're missing. You look at the mess we're in and you see stuff we could have turned around before it turned into economic chaos and Wall Street sweetheart deals."

He's reminded of the excesses of the UAW. "GM, Ford, Chrysler? They all signed off on those contracts and now they build crap and can't sell cars and blame it on the workers and they steal the pensions. "

The Lucky wasn't union made and neither was the sandwich.

"Can't win 'em all," says Murray.


--Sen. Kennedy may be gone, but he's left a book, a memoir, behind -- one that accepts the lone gunman theory of his brother John's assassination. Several others have left behind books about Bernie Madoff. The former will sell, the latter already are proving there's no market left for the Ponzi champ.

--It was a close race for awhile, but Pennsylvania has won the race to be the last state with a 2009-10 budget and as of this writing still doesn't have one, more than two months into the fiscal year. Connecticut was the only other state left in the race, but they have an agreement in place. And we used to think Albany was slow!

--Congratulations to Diane Sawyer, who will replace Charles Gibson as anchor of the ABC dinner hour news broadcast in January. With Gibson, ABC was a major competitor for the ratings lead, though it rarely won. There probably are a lot of smiles over at alma mater NBC, which will likely increase the lead it has held since Cronkite left the chair at CBS and Peter Jennings of ABC passed away.

I'm Wes Richards. My opinions are my own, but you're welcome to them.®
©WJR 2009

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