Monday, September 5, 2011

How Do You Treat American Workers?

"Labor Day was made a national holiday in 1894 by President Grover Cleveland. After a number of deaths in 1894, workers went on strike in support of this holiday. The holiday pays tribute to the achievements of American workers. Today, Labor Day is used as the official last weekend of summer."

For many of us, Labor Day marks the last official weekend of the summer and gives us a piad holiday off of work. However, the foundation of this holiday was laid by American workers that were tired of working in oppressive, unsafe and unfair working conditions.  Since the Industrial Revolution American workers have been exploited, abused and misused for the sake of making a profit. As a worker in America, I am very grateful to those that laid the foundation.

Over the years the "Corporate Citizen" has gained far more legal rights in America than everyday working people. Any student of history knows that there has been a long history of struggle between American workers and the large corporate interests. If this is news to you please see the movie by Michael Moore called The Corporation. You can visit the website at

Today as I was reflecting on how laborers and workers are valued and treated in my own community I had a few thoughts that made me go "Hmmmm......"  Ironically, I have concluded that the ACTUAL problem in valuing American workers is perhaps not rooted in a "grand corporate conspiracy" but perhaps it an outgrowth of Americans' inability to value each other and/or human rights.  Overall, I think labor injustices are simply reflective of our overall devaluing and marginalizing of the human beings and the human spirit in our culture. 

What's the real value of a worker?
Not too long ago I went to dinner with a co-worker that was outright rude to our server.  When the server got a portion of the order wrong it became a reflection of his intellect-- My coworker commented,"He's so stupid."  When he got the manager to come out to correct the issue it became a battle of power-- My co-worker then said,"He knew I wasn't to be played with?" Even when the dude tried to make amends by bringing a free desert the only thing my coworker could state was, "Why did he assume that I wanted THIS particular desert?"  

How many times HAVE YOU completely disregarded a workers' ability and/or gave them the opportunity to correct a mistake before yelling, "I want to see your manager right now?"

How many times HAVE YOU been served and taken care by hotel staff, restaurant workers, sanitation workers, cab drivers, checkout clerk, etc. and never felt the need to acknowledge their presence, nor say "hello" or "thank you" or even leave a tip in appreciation of their service?

How many times HAVE YOU gotten angry with the drive-thru window worker for getting your order wrong when you KNOW you changed your mind AND your order at least 5 times? Heck....wouldn't you be confused too?! 
LIFE LESSON: It's easy for us to hold people accountable for what WE think they should be doing.  How about.....BE THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE!

Do Social Justice Organizations and Activists practice what they preach?

A few years ago I participated in a demonstration in support of "mandatory health care access" at a state capitol.  As I stood there chanting and raising my protest sign I was approached by a Republican law maker. He walked up to me and calmly said, "Why are you out here protesting? I bet your organization doesn't even provide health insurance for you." 

My initial thought was to "cuss him out" but the truth of what he said actually hit me like a ton of bricks. The fact was I worked for a medium sized organization and neither I nor my child had health coverage.  My job didn't offer it for my family nor could I afford it with my salary as an organizer.  However, the leadership of the organization that I worked for actually HAD health coverage for themselves. 
LIFE LESSON: It is sometimes easy for us to point the finger at "corporate America" but many social justice activists and organizations have not adopted the very principals they are suppose to be standing for. In short...SOCIAL JUSTICE IS NOT A POSITION IT IS A PRACTICE & PRINCIPAL FOR ALL.

Is the ONLY requirement for a black community-owned business "designation" is that the owners are Black? 
This topic is so intense and deep to my heart that I feel it righteously deserves its own blogpost!  But for the sake of this writing, I will try to make my point short and sweet. I know some of y'all ain't gonna like what I am about to say but this is what I truly feel....

After Hurricane Katrina, I started organizing resources to send to the impacted communities in the gulf coast.  The only businesses that told me flat out "NO" were black professional businesses.  However, the local Mom and Pop stores would offer and provide whatever little resources they had to the effort.  Individuals and churches in the community also offered support in droves.   I am NOT saying that black professional businesses did not provide help in the Katrina efforts.  There were many, many black businesses that helped the efforts. But what I AM saying is that the only time I ran up against this "poor people need to pull themselves up by the bootstraps" attitude it came from black middle class professionals.  
LIFE LESSON: Don't forget from whence the road you came by...YOU MAY NEED HELP ONEDAY TO PREVENT GOING THAT SAME WAY AGAIN! 

Peace and Blessings,


1 comment:

Unknown said...

I stumbled across this blog searching for "Industrial revolution images". Very glad that I did! Great post, and I could not agree more with where you are coming from.

All the best to you, and I hope you keep blogging!