Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Our Chamber of Commerce Lackey Governor vs. Labor

OK, I've calmed down a bit, and I'd like to share a few things with you.

Above is a picture from 1902 of some of the leadership of the International Ladies Garment Workers Union; in the third row is my great uncle, Bernard Braff, a founding member of the union and its General Secretary-Treasurer for many years. Bernard, along with his friends like Samuel Gompers and the rest of the figures of the early labor movements, are heroes on par with the soldiers of the American Revolution. ("Some historians might consider him a minor patriot, but I think he's at least on par with a William Dawes or even Samuel Otis). Despite the shrill panic-stricken vilification of the working class that you hear every day from Conservative mouth breathers on cable news, people with any sense of justice, fairness, and history understand what the labor movement meant for America.
My grandfather would often tell stories about how his Uncle Bernard was routinely beaten up by industry thugs, how he would have to hide out for fear of his life. Remember, these were the days of the Pinkertons and honest to god Robber Barons: not a safe time to be a Socialist, yiddish-speaking Polish Jew, by any means, especially a rabble rousing one.

When you consider what he and others like him accomplished, and how they helped to transform the experience of the working class American from one of abject misery to one of relative prosperity (and, one hopes, happiness), one really can only stand in awe. I certainly can't imagine what it would be like to work for even five minutes in a pre-organized-labor 19th century factory or mill. We hear horror stories all the time about sweatshop labor in China, but do people realize that workers in our very own country slaved under similar conditions before a courageous few took a stand and changed the world?

So when you get a thick-headed lump of shit like Paul LePage ordering a mural in honor of Maine's Labor history taken down because it's "anti-business," when you see this feckless cowardly usefully idiotic pawn of the "Pro-Business" lobby and the Chamber of Commerce declare that honoring heroes like Rosie the Riveter of the Bath Iron Works or the shoe mill workers of Auburn is an affront to partisan balance, well, I really take it personally.

Friday is the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire: a horrific tragedy in which unsafe conditions doomed hundreds of young immigrant textilers to a horrible death. It is emblematic of what happens when you sacrifice the good of all men for the profits of a few, or when you abdicate responsibility for protecting workers to the whims of laissez faire capitalists.
And this is the week that LePage chooses to dismantle a mural honoring the better path.

Great Fucking Timing, Paul.

p.s. This week HBO is airing an original program about the Triangle Fire. I heartily encourage watching it.

1 comment:

Liz said...

Bernard Braff was my great-grandfather. My mother's father was Abe Braff. How are you related to him? We have a lot of family geneology and I'd like to add to it. Liz at