Paul Elisha: Unions And The Future
At this depressing juncture of America’s ongoing history, if for whatever uncharitable reason, someone might want to provide an even more troubling vexation to dwell upon, the charge that ours is an anti-Organized Labor chronicle would turn out to be a truly fruitless choice. A short stint of diligent digging by this commentator has turned up some interesting rebuttals.
For starters, as early as 1648, the first craft union in what would become Colonial America, The Shoe-Makers of Boston, was authorized to meet for the purpose of choosing officers and clerks. From 1864 to 1872, labor unions totaling approximately 300,000 members were organized for the specific purpose of negotiating wages and hours where they worked. On August 20th, 1866, the first organized Labor Congress was convened in Baltimore, Maryland.
Even more startling is the fact that on December 6th, 1869, the first National Negro Labor Group Convention was held, in Washington, D.C.
For those who still conjure folkloric flourishes to influence the addition of a Reagan countenance to those already gracing Mt. Rushmore, here’s a quip they probably hadn’t considered: The one the ‘Great Communicator’ uttered, as he struck thousands from Food-Stamp and Welfare Rolls, that the Supreme Court then forced him to replace. “It’s difficult to believe that people in this country are starving,” he opined, “because food isn’t available.” Add to this the shortsightedness of conscience that also allowed him to join forces with the ‘qualmsless’ Jimmy Hoffa… to ensure his anti-union aura and re-election.
And for those who still harbor a hunger for the seemingly most impossible dreams, we offer this hopeful reprise: In 1864, on July 4th, enactment of the Federal Immigrant Labor Act guaranteed twelve-month wage contracts for immigrants. What a great repeated happenstance this could be, for all those now praying for another domestic, dynamic addition to Martin Luther King’s still unrealized dream.
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