Remembering Labor on Labor Day

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The American Ruling Class

Happy Labor Day to everyone at home to read this because they are not busy laboring.  I had a brief break between shifts on my double and wanted to post a few thoughts on the holiday.  Perhaps no other American holiday has less remembrance of its origin.  Maybe it is the Labor Day double, but the holiday has me thinking.  It is time that we remember labor on Labor Day.

Labor day is meant to serve as a celebration of the benefits organized labor has brought to the American worker.  I know mentioning the word “union” in any context related to restaurants is enough to put me on some sort of McCarthy era watch list.  I am not going to write about unionization of restaurants.  Maybe next labor day.  This labor day I would rather look at the plight of the worker be they organized or disorganized.

When I start to think of this topic, the first person that comes to mind is Barbara Ehrenreich.  Ms Ehrenreich is a Pulitzer Prize winning author and noted lecturer.  She is perhaps best known for her book “Nickled and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By In America.”  For this book she spent two years working entry-level jobs in retail and restaurants to study how one can survive on low or minimum wage.  Her conclusion was that it is nearly impossible to get by, much less thrive, on these entry-level jobs.  Her work was widely hailed as groundbreaking.  She has written several books since exploring similar themes.

Rather than a long drawn out post on her philosophies, I am attaching a video.  This is her part in what I consider to be one of the best movies ever made.  The American Ruling Class is a scripted documentary.  The main characters are actors, but everyone else plays themselves and created their own dialog.  This movie features a diverse cast including Walter Cronkite, Kurt Vonnegut, Robert Altman, Howard Zinn, James Baker, Bill Bradley, Pete Seeger and many more.  It explores the concept of whether there truly is an American Ruling Class by talking to many who by all accounts would be part of it.  It is truly a fascinating movie and I highly recommend it.

In this scene Ms Ehrenreich meets with a young investment banker and his mentor Larry Lapham.

The American Ruling Class

I hope you all enjoyed the clip.  If you want to see the full movie, you can watch it on Hulu by clicking the word Hulu.  That is all for today.  More labor for me tonight.  If you have the day off, enjoy it.  While you are enjoying it though, take a moment to be grateful for all that organized labor has done for you.

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2 Responses to Remembering Labor on Labor Day

  1. skippymom September 7, 2010 at 8:09 am #

    Her philosophy of philanthropy should be taught in every classroom in America and then her supposition of strikes and demands by the working class poor would finally happen [as it should.] I couldn’t agree with her more.

    I read her book when it first came out, and she is a very talented author [a Pulitzer no less] but I wouldn’t exactly call it ground breaking.

    People in minimum wage jobs have known about her experiences for years. It just took someone to write about it. Too bad it didn’t make much of a difference.

    Thanks for sharing.

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