Labor Day

Invariably on Labor Day there is a lot of reflection on the violence that’s been directed at American workers acting collectively as a labor union. Every American schoolchild learns about The Boston Massacre, not about scores or hundreds of massacres of American colonists, because there weren’t scores of massacres of colonists at the hands of the British. But the history of unions and collective actions by workers in the U.S. includes scores of major massacres.

Luckily such massacres are rare today (although that’s in part because barely 10% of the workforce is unionized, compared to roughly a third in the mid-1950’s). But don’t assume violence against workers is a thing of the distant past. As I saw Labor Day weekend in 1995, there are still employers who will beat and possibly even kill workers who stand together and demand fair, equitable compensation and respect and a voice in the workplace.

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