Tuesday, January 15, 2019

FUCK YOU AND YOUR FLAG WAVING PATRIOTIC BULLSHIT

Without end, the rich and powerful of this nation have sent an unimaginable number of young working class men and women off to foreign lands they had never heard of before to fight in conflicts that never had anything to do with them. Right now, even of those among us who tune in faithfully to the nonstop action of twenty-four hour news networks, only a select few individuals at the Pentagon and the State Department can say for certain precisely how many of our men and women are currently in exactly how many foreign lands, and under what pretext. 

It isn't because knowing how many of our working class men and women are off in what lands is a classified matter of national security either. It is, rather, because unless it is our son or daughter specifically engaged somewhere, we, generally speaking, do not give a fuck enough to find out. We are more than happy to instead wear a flag pin on our lapel, or post a patriotic meme, and go about our lives without being bothered with it. Our news doesn't report it because we don't want them to. When some reporter or channel does try to report on it, we show him the door via ratings because in truth, we are more interested in what the Kardashians might be up to, or, for the super motivated, how our stocks might have performed on any given day. 

When those same troops come home, it is increasingly popular for all of us, regardless of political affiliation, to perpetuate a theoretical idolatry about them. Who, after all, doesn't love our veterans... in theory? Every political debate about almost every subject of funding has been reduced to "would you rather pay for_________or supporting our veterans?" 

The fact remains however, that it is never really about that kind of choice, because whether or not we produce huge tax breaks for the rich and corporations, or give food to the hungry, or let immigrants have access to healthcare, or build a wall, or anything else, an unimaginable number of our working class children turned veterans live under bridges, and in dark alleys we would rather not be bothered to look into.

The savagery our political classes subjected them to in wars has largely ruined them for society. They are unmanageable, often unemployable, and sometimes not even capable of interacting enough on a personable level to make us feel good about putting a dollar in their cups when they are begging for handouts. That is where our theoretical love and adoration of the veteran smashes into the impenetrable brick walls that are specific damaged individuals. Fucking ingrates, anyways. Why don't they get a fucking job? 

Oh, but many of them who are fortunate enough to be functional do get jobs. And a large portion of those jobs are as federal servants, continuing to dedicate themselves to the nation, and toward making a better life for all of us. They work as nurses at veterans hospitals, as social workers at local social security offices, as guards at federal prisons, and as screeners at the airports. They inspect our food, medicines and jobsites for safety, and perform maintenance and support jobs for our active military. They patrol the borders, and perform background checks on everyone desiring to enter into our country from around the globe. 

And how do we repay this lifetime commitment to the common good? Well, by an internet meme espousing the grandeur of the veteran, of course. What could be a better way to show our thanks than that, after all? What better way to show our friends and neighbors and co-workers just how much we give a shit and what great people you and I are?

Meanwhile, those who have dedicated their entire earthly existence to the common good, are run down every day by talking heads and politicians of every ilk, and we allow them to portray our veterans as big government fat cats feeding at some imaginary government trough, fattening themselves on the blood of the people and living in idle luxury awash in extravagant benefits and completely secure in their posh positions, impossible to terminate regardless of their transgressions.

We have allowed our views to be so skewed by policy think tanks and talk radio whores that, we the people, have, as a whole, come to believe that these fallacies, repeated enough times, are undisputable facts. And why not believe that all of your financial woes are caused by the gluttony of big government bureaucrats in Washington? Isn't it so much easier than admitting we have duped by the rich and powerful we so admire on TV?

One reason not to believe the lies about our veteran workforce is that they simply aren't true, and more importantly, your belief in the myth has caused unimaginable injury to those veterans you claim to love above all else. We sit idle by, or worse, as excited sideline cheerleaders, whenever the rich and powerful of this nation march our young people off to another conflict. When news of it bores us, we change the channel away from the wars we have allowed them to be committed to. But they are there, living it, every minute of every hour of every day. When they return home, we wave our flags and talk about them being heroes, but ignore the individual.

The disgusting secret truth of the matter is, that all of us are content, or must be, since we have done so little about it, with the fact that as each day passes, another twenty or thirty veterans put a gun to their head and pull a trigger, or place a rope around their neck and push the stool away, or swallow the entire bottle of pills with their last swig of whiskey. There is no talk of a national emergency, or marches in the streets about it, or government shutdowns unless Congress appropriates $5 billion to address the issue. It is just easier, and far more economical, to simply allow the problem to solve itself by allowing them to quietly die gruesomely by their own hands, one at a time, in dark lonely moments of desperation and destitution.

And if you think that paragraph sounded crass or awful, that's because it was crass AND awful. And that is precisely the world we have left each and every one of them to suffer and die in, lest we be inconvenienced or bothered.  

Meanwhile, back in January of 2019 land, the government shutdown goes on without end in sight. The news is all about the shutdown and the wall and the latest migrant caravan coming up from Central America and how our way of life might die if we don't build a wall across the entire state of Texas. And every day it goes on, the veteran suicide rate will rise.

How do I know? How can I know? Because of those big government fat cats that we all despise so much that aren't being paid right now, an estimated 300,000 of them are veterans and they live all around you. That is not some bullshit talking point either. It's true. If you cared enough to ask you would find out that the lady at your local social security office served in Iraq, or the nurse who took care of your Dad at the VA last month who lives down the street from you served two tours in Afghanistan. 

Right now, as I write these words, in this nation of veteran loving, flag waiving patriots, we have the ability to immediately improve the lives and well being of 300,000 working class veterans. These are not wealthy people. They are almost all working class. How many fucking paychecks can you miss and be okay? One? Two? None? They are in the exact same boat as the rest of us, and NO ONE appears to give a fuck.

Furthermore, many of these government employed veterans have jobs that require security clearances, and the minute their credit score takes a dip, they become automatically unemployable. That's right. You or I take a 20 point hit and we're paying an extra $10 a month on the next car we buy. Federal employees take the same dip and they may be out of a career. That is the type of stress we are putting on 300,000 VETERAN workers and their families, many of whom are already struggling and battling PTSD and other demons we so happily allowed them to acquire. The suicide rate WILL go up every day the shutdown drags on and the stress builds up. 

So build a fucking wall, or don't build a wall. It's all a fucking political football anyhow. And nobody gives a shit, I mean really gives a shit, besides the 800,000 working people who are wondering where their next meal is coming from. Meme away America. Meme away. Just stop doing it about veterans because no one believes you give a shit any more. If you did you would really do something about it. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

West Virginia Strike & The Death of Labor As We Knew It

Since the Reagan Administration, we in organized labor have invested a considerable amount of time lamenting and mourning over the slow death of the labor movement. Under the heavy handed thumbs of old guard labor leaders who viewed politics as the one true god, our perceived demise became a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What began with the PATCO strike, largely ended in Wisconsin. In both instances, and thousands more just like them in between, the leadership of organized labor stood before massive crowds of the working class, arm in arm with elected leaders and candidates, and said, "trust us."

In Wisconsin, tens of thousands were turned away from the capitol protest and told to go home and vote. The American worker has been told to maintain faith in a system wholly designed to maintain the status quo, and favors the interest of the few over the desperate needs of the masses.

But something new has happened in West Virginia. Or rather, something very old. For the first time, perhaps, in decades, on a massive scale, the workers were instead told by union leadership, to organize, to mobilize, and put their faith, their fates, and their futures, in the only hands capable of charting a more perfect course, their own.

If West Virginia marks the death of organized labor as we, in recent generations have known it, then rest in peace, old friend. You will be sorely missed by the old guard democratic party machine, and the handful of labor bosses who still take their marching orders from Providence mobsters.

The new organized labor will consist of only two kinds of unions, those that empower their members with the kind of organizing support that creates an environment where worker led actions and strikes like the one in West Virginia can happen, and dead ones.


We may finally, once and for all, bid farewell to the 63 year, George Meany era of labor and her slow, painful decline under democrats, double deals, and the legal and contractual hindrances of no strike clauses. There is, alas, a new sheriff in town, and he is an immigrant name is Joseph Hillstrom aka, Joe Hill.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Thank You, Koch Brothers, From the Labor Movement

It is no secret that organized labor has been in a long, slow death spiral since the Reagan Administration. Union membership in the private sector has fallen to below 7%, reduced to levels not seen since the passage of the Wagner Act in the 1930s. Union leadership has largely been paralyzed into inaction (or misguided action) as all hope was placed in a disastrous multi-decade effort to funnel all energies into a busted two party political system where Republicans, hell bent on the destruction of organized labor, are pitted against Democrats, who are unwilling to take any major steps to save it.
Not content to stop with the decimation of private sector unions, the wealthiest most powerful individuals turned their attentions toward the public sector. They recognized that to gain complete control of the nation's political system and wealth, they needed to declare complete war on all of organized labor. Led by the Koch Brothers and ALEC, they took that war to Wisconsin. And when thousands of union members and working families assembled to fight the blatant attack on workers, union leadership told the assembled masses to go home, and vote. They funneled the collective energies of the movement, and angst of the working class, right back into the system so perfectly designed to keep them from exercising any real power.
Now, similar laws have been passed in Iowa, despite no calls from citizens for them, and despite fierce, and complete opposition to them. At first, it appeared as though the joke was on the Republicans who passed the laws requiring certification elections prior to bargaining new contracts, because almost every public entity in the state of Iowa won their recertification votes. But now, as bargaining with school districts is underway, no one is laughing...

Many in labor believed that with decent elected officials on school boards and other local entities, that bargaining under the new laws might not be so bad. As the examples above have shown, they were sorely mistaken. The collective benefits and rights that have been negotiated over the bulk of the last half century are being unapologetically dismantled and shamefully stripped away. Collective bargaining agreements that were 80 or 100 pages long last month, are being reduced to 1 or 2 pages of meaningless garbage, unworthy of the ink wasted on printing them. 
Iowa teachers, in particular, are largely shell shocked, but some of them are beginning to awaken to the new realities. In online forums and coffee shops and homes, small groups of teachers are beginning to do something they haven't done in over a generation; they are starting to organize. And many of them are even beginning to use the only word capable of saving the movement. STRIKE. 
Some still cling to hope in the process or the next election cycle, as they are hesitant to do anything that might harm their students or their beloved districts. But others still are coming to terms with the fact the parents in their school districts have elected the people who are destroying their lives, and while those parents did not advocate for these new ALEC written laws, they did nothing to stop their enactment. The message from the communities and Republicans has largely been that firefighters and policemen and heroes, worthy of collective bargaining rights. Teachers on the other hand, are a public nuisance, ranked slightly above uncollected garbage.    
Among Iowa teachers, the arguments that they have to remain loyal to their districts are fading. The realization is also setting in that as goes their power as a collective, so goes their ability to protect their students from the various privatization schemes pushed by the rich, that will further erode Iowa's public education system.
Some still argue that a strike will cause irreparable harm to their union, with fines assessed at $10,000 per day, but others are wondering what good it does to maintain an organization that now lacks even the ability to file a simple grievance on their behalf.
In Iowa, collective bargaining laws were passed decades ago, in part, to end strikes by educators. The embarrassment of teachers sitting in jail cells  because of "illegal" strikes was too much to take. It made the governor look bad. The tradeoff was, collective bargaining rights, grievance procedures, and binding arbitration, and educators agreed not to strike. In short, the deal is now off.
The other argument losing steam is that strikes are illegal. Yes. They are. They were illegal when the teachers held them so long ago to earn the rights inherited by this generation. It was illegal when Rosa Parks sat in the front of the bus. It was illegal when the black men sat down at that lunch counter. And it is illegal yet today. The only thing that has changed is the courage of the individuals in this generation of workers. Or has it?
Workers are growing weary. They are growing tired of dying the death of a thousand cuts that is being perpetrated upon them, and they are growing impatient with unions and union leaders who are unwilling to lead them to more meaningful direct action.
Even as Iowa educators begin the process of awakening and the realization that their labor is indisputably their own, and their right to withhold their labor is inalienable, regardless of law or threat of consequence, Florida educators are facing another prong of the Koch/ALEC attack, with pending legislation that will automatically decertify any union with less than 50% dues paying membership. And even before enactment, their union is using the 'S' word publicly.
In short, the Koch Brothers and ALEC might just be accomplishing what we in organized labor have failed to do since the merger of the AFL and CIO in 1955, awakening the sleeping, slumbering giant, that is the true potential of the organized, radicalized, pissed off masses in America. If they succeed, then every working family in the nation might just have to send a handwritten thank you card to the Koch Brothers, ALEC, and their corporate cronies in the GOP AND Democratic parties for making it happen. In turn, the private sector union movement might owe a huge debt of gratitude for educators teaching the entire movement how to finally act like unions again.
If you follow me, I haven't posted in a while. But I have been doing some reading, and if you are among those groups of working people, or labor leaders, meeting and talking about things and need some inspiration, I recommend the following book:

Srdja Popovic has written an entertaining manual on the non-violent tactics employed by the leaders of the Serbian revolution (he was among them). And while it may not seem like it applies, there are many brilliant philosophies and tactics that translate easily to any people's organizing efforts.

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

The Great Iowa Union Busting Flop


Iowa Republican Governor Kim Reynolds, and Republican Speaker of the House, Linda Upmeyer, had a good laugh at the expense of working families when the Orwellian laws to bust public sector unions were rammed through early this year despite zero public support and thousands of workers turning out in opposition.
 
The Iowa union busting efforts led by ALEC & Co. and modeled after the Koch Puppet Regime legislation in Wisconsin requires every public sector union in the state to recertify through an election prior to negotiating a new contract. This week, 468 bargaining units saw ballots counted by Iowa's Public Employment Relations Board. 
 
Overwhelmingly, 28,488 votes were cast to retain coverage by a labor union, while only 624 votes were cast by what one can only assume to be union hating rat relatives of Republican legislators.
 
Despite the overwhelming ratio of nearly 46 to 1 in favor of union representation, some 30 small bargaining units lost their unionized protections, due to the law requiring in excess of 50% of the entire unit to vote in favor. One example was a unit consisting of four people, where two votes were cast for the union, one vote cast against, and one that did not vote who was automatically counted among the union hating rat bastard votes.
 
What every Iowan ought to be asking themselves now is exactly how much these union busting shenanigans have ultimately cost the taxpayers of the state. How many tens of thousands of dollars were wasted on the contractors who tallied the votes, or the lost time of PERB officials wasted counting and filing paperwork associated with them, all so Upmeyer and Reynolds could strip the rights away from a handful of four person units, and further ingratiate themselves to ALEC & Co?
 
28,488 Iowans have spoken. Their voices have been heard. They do not wish to disband their unions and entrust their futures entirely to the good graces of the likes of Upmeyer and Reynolds. It's time for those same 28,488 Iowans and their friends and families to kick these union busters to the curb and demand this fraud of a law that has been perpetrated upon every Iowa taxpayer be stopped. These wasteful laws need to be repealed and left to the system that has served the state so well for the past forty years. 
 
If 28,488 workers can speak with a singular voice against this sham of a law, then it gives us all hope that in the next election cycle, an equally proportionate number of Iowa working class families can cast another vote and send these union busting bums packing once and for all.     

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Which Side Are You On?


On April 4th, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of a hotel in Memphis. That piece of history is well known by most folks in labor. If not the date, then at least the fact that he was murdered in Memphis.
 
Less known by many younger labor leaders is exactly what King was doing in Memphis when he was assassinated. He was there to assist the sanitation workers and their fledgling AFSCME local, who had went on strike when two of their colleagues were killed by a malfunctioning garbage truck.
 
 
While King received funding and support from some in organized labor, he was deeply entrenched in his Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Poor People's Campaign at the time and feared the Memphis strikes would detract from his current efforts.
 
Likewise, in organized labor, despite quietly funding much of King's work, almost NO ONE wanted a strike of black workers in the South, since most current union members there were white males, more likely to greet the strikers with white hoods than with broad support.
 
 
The workers marched forward though, and as the strike wore on, both King and the Labor Movement, were forced into a fight that neither may have particularly wanted, but that neither side could afford to continue to ignore. Because of those workers, the Memphis sanitation workers strike would become a true watershed moment in American Labor History, as there could be absolutely no doubt from that moment forward, that the Labor Movement and the Civil Rights Movement in this nation were intricately intertwined. They are one in the same.
 
You cannot rightfully argue that an injury to one is an injury to all, and denounce a group of people based on the hue of their skin, or the place name on their birth certificate, or who they go to bed with at night. You cannot believe in justice for all, without denouncing injustice and bigotry. And you CANNOT call yourself a union man or woman, and not denounce injustice and prejudice wherever and whenever you see it.
 
 
Hatred has been simmering in this nation since its birth. With the election of Barack Obama, I believed that a new watershed moment had been attained. I believed that we finally lived in a world where the sins of our fathers might be behind us, and every child of color could grow up living in a world where anything was finally possible, even for them. The election of this president though, and the recent atrocities in Charlottesville, have proven otherwise.  
  

  In Charlottesville, the Nazi and Confederate flags were on full and proud display. 620,000 American soldiers died in the Civil War defeating slavery. 416,000 American soldiers died defeating Fascism in WWII. You cannot display either flag outside of a museum without dishonoring the lives and sacrifices of these 1,000,000 men and women. BOTH flags are symbols of injustice and intolerance and are UNAMERICAN as you can get.
 
 
Despite these facts, we are living in a time when fascism and racism are on full and open display. It is the shame of this nation for all the world to see. Hundreds of armed men and women are allowed to assemble freely and denounce the rights and freedoms of others under the guise of the freedom of assembly. The President of the United States fuels the flames of their misguided courage. Police stand idly by and watch with disinterest. The masses on the right say they are disgusted by Nazis, but it's their right , they say, to freedom of assembly.
 
 
But where was the "freedom of assembly" at Standing Rock?  Or does freedom of assembly only apply when it does not stand opposed to the inalienable rights of capital to profit?
 
 
 
Where was the "freedom of assembly" in Ferguson? Or does freedom of assembly only apply when it stands against the rights of people who aren't white like me?
 
 
Where was the "freedom of assembly" in Baltimore?
 
 
Or in Memphis?
 
 
I know a lot of people who are white like me, who don't like the term "white privilege". Because they struggle financially, they choose not to believe such a thing exists. But KNOW THIS: there has NEVER been time or a place in this nation, including now, that a group of colored people, or foreign born people, or any group of people besides white males, can assemble in public brandishing firearms and not expect to be gunned down in the streets by the establishment.
 
There has never been a time or a place anywhere in this nation, including today, when anyone can assemble freely and threaten the white propertied classes, or (especially) their property or businesses. But, there has ALWAYS been room to allow ANY show of force assembled against the rights of others who do not represent the owning classes. There has always been allowed open aggression toward minorities, and immigrants. No show of force is ever assembled by law enforcement to fight bigotry. The national guard is never called in to shoot up a Klan meeting, or spray tear gas into a crowd of Nazi sympathizers.
 
And that is exactly why this fight is ours as whites. Because when a large group of black men assemble to fight off the oppression of the Klan, it is the black men who will ultimately pay the price. When a group of antifascists assemble to fight off the growing threat of fascists, the antifascists will be jailed and murdered by the Nazis and police alike.
 
The fight belongs to us. We, all of us, and especially white trade unionists, must recognize that this is the moment for us to rise up against the growing threat of fascism and racism in this nation. It starts with an intolerance of our own. It begins by not allowing any comment in our homes or communities or workplaces to go unchecked, and it ends with taking back our streets and ridding them of fascists. Our tolerance of others has allowed this to thing to grow. Our silence is the fuel that lights the night from their flames of hatred.
 
We have not a right, but a responsibility, to our children, to our brethren, to our forefathers who perished fighting fascism and establishing freedoms, and to the very nation itself, to meet this threat to everything we hold dear head on, and fight them back into hiding at every front, in every conceivable way.
 
Our aim is not to try to understand them. Our goal is not to greet them with love. We shall leave that to other, more enlightened elements of the left. Our goal must be to meet this threat wherever we find it and stomp it out. To extinguish the flames of hatred and crush the smoldering embers beneath our feet, by any means necessary to do so.  
 
And know that this fight is our fight directly too as trade unionists, because as Lyndon Johnson said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
 
That is why fascists and racists are never greeted with tanks and hundreds of heavily armed police or guardsman. Because by allowing them to exist and flourish, so too can the enemies of labor flourish by default, through division, and through misguided blame.
 
The history of the labor movement is scarred with purges of communists and socialists led by the political enemies of labor. It is due time we instigated a purge of our own, and recognized that no one ought to be able to call themselves a union man and preach hatred  or intolerance of others. No woman ought to be allowed to hold a union office and seek the tearing apart of immigrant families, or lobby to strip the rights away of our LGBT brothers and sisters.
 
And no union man or woman, ESPECIALLY the white ones (like me) can afford to sit this fight out, or continue to allow the spread of the far right in this nation. Too much has been sacrificed by too many, and we must remember the words of  Pastor Martin Niemöller:
 
In Nazi Germany, first they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Socialist.
 
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out— Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
 
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
 
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.
 
It is all happening again. If you have ever thought about history and wondered why people did not rise up to stop a thing, then your response right now is your answer. Silence is NOT an option.
 
WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON?
 
 
 




 



 
 
 
 
 
 

Monday, July 10, 2017

Labor Law Loses Another Tooth


In the private sector, organizers have all but abandoned the use of the traditional NLRB campaign model. Usually, when the model is still employed, it is only is conjunction with a more comprehensive and multifaceted campaign. Because the law so favors employers who use union busting tactics that it has become almost wholly ineffective as a vehicle for workers to advance their cause.
 
One of the few exceptions within the law however, has been the interpretation of the definition of the scope of legally protected concerted activity. What constituted legally protected concerted activity has been the backbone of much of the non-traditional work performed by organizers going back to the Reagan administration.
 
Recently, however, in MikLin Enterprises, Inc v. NLRB the Eighth Circuit US Court of Appeals has turned back the clock eighty years on workers rights by overturning an NLRB decision, and stating that "Section 7 rights do not disturb an employer's right to expect loyalty from their employees and their continued efforts in support of the business."
 
If allowed to stand (and there is no reason to believe it won't in the current climate), MikLin could easily establish a dangerous new precedent affecting all formerly accepted forms of legally protected concerted activity. It could mean that every handbill, every picket, every poster, and every communication between workers, could be forced to survive a new set of legal litmus tests surrounding the issue of employee loyalty.
 
Almost nothing in the existing private sector union organizer's toolkit is safe under this bizarre new world legal order where the backbone of workers rights under Section 7 of the NLRA is anchored by employer loyalty, and support of the businesses they are presumably engaged in a labor dispute with.
 
In short, any expansion of this decision, and the further erosion of workers rights under the NLRA, will deem the law completely useless, instead of the current interpretations that leave it almost entirely useless. When the last tooth goes bouncing across the courtroom floor, private sector organized labor needs to have a new organizing playbook.
 
Perhaps instead of organizing workers to change the law, or work within the suffocating confines of ever restricting law, we ought to instead be organizing workers to ignore them altogether?
 
Read more on the MikLin decision here:
 
 
 

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Union Workers Memorial Day Joe Hill Tribute


Joel Emmanuel Hägglund, who Anglicized his name to Joseph Hillström, and eventually as Joe Hill, was an immigrant from Sweden who, like so many during the sporadic employment of the sweeping depressions of the early 1900's, was an itinerant worker, known at that time as a tramp.
 
In his travels from mine to mill and back again, Joe learned English, and he learned some other things too. He learned of the rampant injustice of unrestrained free market capitalism that made a few men wealthy beyond measure, and left the masses destitute, without hope, and powerless.
 
Joe would use his acquired knowledge of capitalism to organize workers into the Industrial Workers of the World union everywhere he went. And he did it in part, by using songs and poetry and cartoons that were published in the Industrial Worker newspaper. 
 
One such song was Where the Fraser River Flows:

Fellow workers pay attention to what I'm going to mention,
For it is the fixed intention of the Workers of the World.
And I hope you'll all be ready, true-hearted, brave and steady,
To gather 'round our standard when the red flag is unfurled.
CHORUS:
Where the Fraser river flows, each fellow worker knows,
They have bullied and oppressed us, but still our union grows.
And we're going to find a way, boys, for shorter hours and better pay, boys
And we're going to win the day, boys, where the river Fraser flows.
For these gunny-sack contractors have all been dirty actors,
And they're not our benefactors, each fellow worker knows.
So we've got to stick together in fine or dirty weather,
And we will show no white feather, where the Fraser river flows.Now the boss the law is stretching, bulls and pimps he's fetching,
And they are a fine collection, as Jesus only knows.
But why their mothers reared them, and why the devil spared them,
Are questions we can't answer, where the Fraser River flows.
You can listen to the song as performed by Utah Phillips here:

 
Joe's words and cartoons touched workers and inspired thousands to organize until 1914, when he was shot by a close friend and fellow countryman in a fight over a girl. Unwilling to turn his brother in when he sought medical attention, authorities and mining bosses in Utah seized upon the opportunity to have him charged with the murder of  a store owner and his son, despite having no motive, and relatives of the victim who testified that Joe Hill was not among the murderers.  
 
Despite international calls for clemency, on November 19th, 1915, guards walked Joe Hill to a chair in the Utah prison yard and secured him to it. When Deputy Shettler, who led the firing squad, called out the sequence of commands ("Ready, aim,") Hill shouted, "Fire — go on and fire!"
 
Joe Hill's bullet riddled body on display


Minutes before his state sponsored murder, Hill had written a note to Big Bill Haywood, of the Western federation of Miners and IWW leader, saying, "Goodbye Bill. I die like a true blue rebel. Don't waste any time in mourning. Organize... Could you arrange to have my body hauled to the state line to be buried? I don't want to be found dead in Utah."
 
 
 
Joe Hill's actual last will and testament:
 
My will is easy to decide
For there is nothing to divide
My kin don't need to fuss and moan
"Moss does not cling to rolling stone"

My body? Oh, if I could choose
I would to ashes it reduce
And let the merry breezes blow
My dust to where some flowers grow

Perhaps some fading flower then
Would come to life and bloom again.
This is my Last and final Will.
Good Luck to All of you
-Joe Hill-
 
 
All working people's movements are built upon a foundation of genuine sacrifice. Power does not give itself up. The rich do not roll over and play dead. Not then. Not now. Not ever. Never have. Never will.
 
Countless men and women like Joe Hill sacrificed everything so we could inherit a world where workers at least had basic rights, and hope for the future, and opportunities to provide for our families and ourselves, even in sickness and retirement.
 
This Memorial Day Weekend, it is more important than ever to remember labor's martyrs like Joe Hill, and recognize that the history of the working class in America has been paved upon a road of blood and sacrifice. Thousands have perished fighting an unjust system. Thousands still die here every year at work in America, desiring only to provide for themselves and their families.
 
We stand today upon a precipice in time. We as a people shall either descend into an abyss where the working classes once again know only pain and suffering, devoid of medical care or fair wages, or protections under the law, or we shall rise up and emerge stronger than ever before, pushing forward into a world where our children and grandchildren can live well, work safely, and look forward to spending quality time with their own grandchildren in their retirement years.
 
A lot has changed in the one hundred years since Joe Hill was murdered by the copper mining bosses in Utah. A lot of things have remained the same though. The resources of a nation and a world are still dolled out by politicians to a handful of men wealthy enough to bribe them for the privilege.
 
Those men still amass unfathomable fortunes to the peril of the masses. Those men will still stop at nothing to amass those fortunes, grinding up the bones of everyone else in a machine designed to strip every man, woman and child of their labor, their dignity, and eventually, their lives. As I write this, Congress works toward eliminating healthcare for millions of Americans. States are repealing minimum wage protections advanced by localities. Labor protections of every kind are being stripped away, as capitalists seek to unravel a hundred years worth of labor advances.  
 
Men like Joe Hill had to sacrifice their all to earn the privileges we inherited. We had only to vote and to call our Congressional delegations and keep them accountable, but we failed miserably to do even that much. Luckily, for our own children and grandchildren, the answer remains right in front of us still. We still have the power over capitalists and Congress alike, and it is, as it always has been, right there, just as Joe Hill said it was a hundred years before...