In China, they work on Labor Day
January 1981. The first show I ever saw after I landed in Los Angeles might have been Eddie Zip and Sweet Magnolia at this Italian restaurant down on South La Brea. Or it could have been Buckwheat Zydeco at a church in Watts, with long tables set up for the pot luck dinner of food that seemed so exotic to me back then. Or perhaps it was X, or somebody else equally loud and in your face at Al’s Bar. That joint, on the corner of Hewitt Street and Traction Avenue in what became the downtown art district near Little Tokyo, closed twenty years later, the month before the planes went flying into the World Trade Center. Both a space for performance art and a neighborhood bar, Al’s often was described as the West coast version of CBGB’s, though the scene and vibe was altogether different. It was a place that meant a lot to many people, and a few months ago I read that there was to be a “mini-festival within a festival” on Fourth Street called A Tribute to Al’s Bar. Headlining was Mike Watt minus the Minutemen, along with a whole gaggle of metal and punk bands…including a group with the most amazing name: Carnage Asada.
I did not attend the show as I was busy packing up and preparing to check out of the hotel known as California. It has served me well over the years, almost half of my life thus far. But at age sixty I’ve chosen to make a major life change, and to move geographically from left to right. And so here it is, Labor Day 2012, and I find myself in an apartment just a twenty-seven minute train ride from Grand Central Station on the Metro North express from Scarsdale, and pondering my return to the work force. In November it will be two years that I became one with the recession, living the life described best by Richard Farina (missing that wavy thing over the “n”) as “been down so long it looks like up to me”. Not quite that down I suppose, as Scarsdale is one of the wealthier suburbs in this state. And according to my son who knows this sort of stuff, it’s also registered 70% Democratic. Ensconced in the arms of affluent suburban liberalism, here I shall make my stand. Or at least until the money runs out.
So now you know.
I wanted to post something today because everybody is too busy to read it. I hope it shall come and go anonymously. Holiday weekends, especially this one, is a slow-go at ol’ No Depression, as everyone is busy winding down the summer and getting ready for school or the holidays or work or the serious side of life. In the wheel, June through early September is merely set aside for play, not at all a time to be productive. So if you do see this, consider it a practice run. I’m just toning up my chops.
Do you know that among the wealthy, Labor Day signified the last day which one could wear either white clothing or seersucker? Its also the start of the NFL season and NCAA football. And a busy day at retailers across the country…second only to Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving. Forms of celebration include picnics, barbecues, fireworks displays, water sports (god no, not that), and public art events.
But of course the real reason we have Labor Day is, or at least was, to pay tribute to the contribution of the men and women in the work force. It was Grover Cleveland who signed a law designating the first Monday in September as Labor Day nationwide. This is interesting because Cleveland was not a labor union supporter. In fact, he was trying to repair some political damage that he suffered earlier that year when he sent federal troops to put down a strike by the American Railway Union at the Pullman Co. in Chicago, IL. That action resulted in the deaths of 34 workers.
Labor unions. Raise your hand if you remember them. Raise your hand if you know what it was like in America before workers organized themselves and fought for a decent wages, better working conditions, health benefits and time to rest and be with family. Raise your hand if you remember that the slogan “look for the union label” signified patriotism and promoted buying things made here at home, in the United States. And as we enter an election season of super-pacs, rhetoric and lies, raise your hand up in solidarity with the men and women who teach your children, fight your fires, protect you homes, give care to our elderly parents, ring your cash registers and build your roads.
20 Reasons to Support Workers’ Unions:
- Minimum Wage
- 5-Day Work Week
- Fair Wages
- End Child Labor
- Employer-Based Health Coverage
- Maternity Leave
- Occupational Safety
- Workers Compensation
- Sick Days
- Overtime Pay
- Anti-Discrimination (EOE)
- Job Training
- Annual Pay Increases
- Lunch-Break Laws
- Protection Against Retaliatory Firings
- Documented Review before Firing
- Retirement Pension Plans
- Against Outsourcing (hire Americans)
- Immigration Laws (hire Americans)
- Workers with Disabilities
Carnage Asada, and adios.