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September 6, 2004

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Today was Labor Day, a day to remember the now largely
defunct "labor movement." Once upon a time, workers
started meeting to discuss how they were being used up
by "fatcat capitalists" who grew rich using people as tools.
They formed unions, strategized, and withheld their labor
as a means of exerting pressure on their bosses to provide
a living wage, job security, and other benefits which make
life in industrialized society bearable. The bosses retaliated
with physical force and other forms of legal injustice, but in
the end the workers won shorter work days, higher wages,
and the 5-day work week. Most of this happened about a
bazillion years ago, back in the early 20th century. Since
then, there's been a lot of backsliding. WalMart, the largest
employer in the United States, actively supresses any attempt
by its 1.2 million workers to unionize. More and more businesses
utilize part time schedules and temporary employees as ways
of getting around the necessity of providing essentials such as
health insurance and pension plans for the workers they exploit.
Government fuel subsidies and the work of the IMF and WTO
make it profitable for corporations to "ship jobs overseas" where
human rights abuses keep the cost of doing business attractively
low. In a country where private prisons is one of the only growth
industries, it seems inevitable that most manufacturing jobs will
one day be replaced by labor camps staffed by political prisoners
so that corporations can "stay competitive." (A political prisoner
will be anyone who questions the policies of the government.)

On a more heartening note, Sarah and I saw Harvey Pekar speak,
albeit from separate seats because it was standing room only.