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  • Reverend James Squire

Labor Day

Updated: Feb 9, 2021

My Photo On My Steel Mill Badge

Today is Labor Day which celebrates the importance of the working class. Every politician wants to be part of it and indicate that they came from a blue-collar background. Candidates for office want to demonstrate that they were true blue working class doing as much with their hands as they did with their minds. Joe Biden is focusing on his Scranton roots and Donald Trump is still trying to convince others that he only got a million dollars from his father and he too is a self-made man.

It is still a mystery to me that his base can identify with this individual who never spent a moment doing hard physical labor. In addition, when his various building projects were completed and he hadn’t paid his workers he would indicate, “I will give you half what you earned. Take that! It is better than nothing because I will hold up your money for years with my lawyers. Oh, you don’t have a lawyer? Tough!” He has produced the ultimate “con” with his base of hard-working people who know sweat and toil.

I have had mixed experience with labor unions who are an essential part of working-class America! My father had a stroke and couldn’t work for a year. The Meat Cutters Labor Union literally kept us alive with food on the table. My brother and I worked in a steel mill to put ourselves through college in conditions that were the same as those at the turn of the century. We earned money that guaranteed that we could attend a state college and have some left over. I worked at the Krylon Paint Factory loading skids of boxes with gallon paint cans until I couldn’t raise my arms at the end of the shift. I worked in a ball bearing plant doing repetitive work at three lathes with people who were doing this boring task every day of their lives. I was a substitute teacher in the Philadelphia School System where I witnessed first-hand the union doing what benefitted the teachers first with not as much concern for the students.

Like everything in life unions have a cyclic nature starting out with what was needed including important health benefits and then taking advantage of the situation to line their pockets. The steel mill that was the source of money for my college education eventually closed because of excessive demands by the union. If you worked one hour, you were paid for forty hours, you had full health benefits, and every five years a worker could take a six months sabbatical leave. The day that the plant closed, the members couldn’t understand why the gates were closed and locked. They looked on in total disbelief. They thought that management would provide a never-ending giving tree.

The blue-collar worker is the heart and soul of our nation. Without the working class there would not be an America. The massive amount of distance between the top 2% and the rest is something that we should fear as, without the blue-collar worker, America will no longer exist. It is difficult to fully assimilate that Jeff Bezos is the first 300 billion dollar man who has amassed his fortune on the backs of his $15 an hour workers.

There is something that Trump and Bezos will never know. They will never experience the feeling of doing something hard with your body and mind and feeling that relief as you sink into your bed at night. They will never experience blue collar grit. They will never experience a job with your hands where you feel that it is well done. They will never experience the shared purpose of slogging away together with others. Most important, they will never experience the kinesthetic intelligence where your body remembers the agony and ecstasy of hard physical labor and can become a reference point for moving forward through difficult times. Your body never forgets.

There is a story that John F. Kennedy was at a rally in Boston where someone from the crowd yelled. “Kennedy, you were born with a silver spoon in your mouth.” Another member of the crowd yells, “John Kennedy, you didn’t miss a thing.”

On this Labor Day, I couldn’t disagree more that he didn’t miss a thing because Labor Day celebrates what he missed and what made our country the greatest country in the world, the American worker!

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