Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Minimum Wage and May Day

The vote was 54 in favor and 42 against. Just about any where in the world that would mean a proposal to raise the minimum wage, over a 30 month period, from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour would have passed. Unfortunately the United States Senate isn't just any where in the world. In that hallowed chamber of congress you need 60 votes in order to get a measure through.

Not that it matters. Those conservative cretins in the house would have killed it quicker than you can say John Boehner once it arrived there.

Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas accused the democrats of playing politics with the issue. NBC reports he was whining those in favor of the bill were simply trying to make the GOP look, "hard hearted," during an election year. Perhaps, but Senator you'll have to admit it is pretty fucking easy to make republicans look hard hearted any time, whether there are elections coming up, or not.

That is what happens when many of your party, especially in the house, want to do away with the minimum wage altogether, while others tell single parents minimum wage jobs were never meant to raise people out poverty to begin with. You bet, next time, baby give head and, by the way, I'll take a large order of fries with my burger.

NBC quoted Washington democratic Senator, Patty Murray as saying, "Their vote today defines their priorities."

The republicans are justifying these beastly acts by claiming they are trying to save small businesses. Of course their love of mom and pop stores has never stopped each and every one of them from accepting contributions offered by people like the Walton family, who have spent their entire lives driving mom and pop operations straight into bankruptcy.

The vote in the Senate came on the eve of May first, which is a traditional spring holiday across the globe, particularly in Europe. The first day in May, or "May Day," is also known as International Workers Day in many places. Because it is recognized and celebrated by a lot of people the United States government has traditionally disliked--you know, communists, socialists, minimum wage workers, and just about anyone wanting to make a decent and dignified living--the American version of International Workers Day was set in September and called, simply, Labor Day.

May Day came about because of a minor demonstration held on the night of May 4th, 1886 at Haymarket Square in Chicago. Prior to the 4th that year there had been a general strike of laborers which began on May 1st. The walkouts involved upwards to 300,000 workers nationwide. The demonstrations in Chicago continued beyond the first, mainly because there was an ongoing strike at the McCormick Harvesting Machine Company. On the third of May things turned ugly when strikers, who were incensed by replacement workers, were fired on by Chicago police. Depending on who you believe, between two and six strikers were killed.

The next night in Haymarket Square a crowd of somewhere between 600 and 3,000 showed up to listen to some radical left speakers. It was raining and as usual the guys making speeches were boring and by 10 or 10:30 pm a lot of people had drifted away. According to Wikipedia the demonstrators were so laid back, the mayor of Chicago left the square early, thinking there was nothing to worry about.

However, those of us who are a certain age know all about the Chicago police department, it's tactics, and the violent tradition it is so proud of. As the demonstration was winding down a phalanx of cops came marching down the street and the officer in charge ordered the "mob" to disperse. What happened next is up to historical interpretation. Someone threw a bomb toward the police lines. It went off. The police began shooting into the crowd. Absolute chaos ensued. There were reports of people at the demonstration firing on the cops, although later, at least one official said, many of the police who had been shot were downed by fellow officers firing blindly in the darkness, confusion, and rain. By the time it was done seven policemen were dead, as were four civilians. At least 70 were wounded, although it is generally acknowledged there were many injured demonstrators who refused to go to hospitals out of fear they'd be arrested.

Whatever the case may be, the night became a cause celebre. Within a year and a half, Illinois hung four guys, none of whom threw the bomb, or built it. Another killed himself before he could be executed. Three others were eventually pardoned, because a few years later a  progressive governor recognized all eight of the accused had been railroaded. The person who actually chucked the explosive device was never caught. Some primordial leftist conspiracy theorists claimed an unnamed Pinkerton's detective had infiltrated the labor movement and committed the act in order to discredit it. Finally, the governor who issued the pardons was defeated when he ran for re-election, because he was accused of being a socialist sonofabitch.

So, what was the terrible trigger for all the violence, death, turmoil, and political retribution? Well, the workers in the streets on the very first May Day, at McCormick Harvesting, and in the Haymarket were demanding an eight hour work day.

Yes, they were fighting for the very same job institution the huge majority of us take for granted in the year 2014.

It would seem some things never change. If you're poor and abused by your employer there are vast forces actively at work to keep you that way--then and now. According to them the poverty you were born into is your fault and any attempt you make to break out of it is tantamount to stealing from them.They have and will continue to call this cruel scam stuff like, The American Way and Free Enterprise. If you question these phrases you are considered a traitor to the nation they control and you, despite the terrible mistreatment, still love.

Welcome to the land of the free.

The bar is down the hall and thankfully, it is open.

sic vita est


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