Sunday, September 4, 2016

Donal Mahoney writes

Whinny and Spit

Labor Day, 2016
When a man’s young,
this work is hard
but it pays well
and he can feed
the wife and kids.
In the morning
he throws crates off trucks,
and after lunch
throws crates again
till five or six o’clock.
But as he grows older,
and some say
ready to retire,
he has to stop
in the late afternoon,
mount his throne of skids,
let his legs drip over the side,
toss his head, inhale,
whinny and spit.
 Unloading the Truck -- Marilyn Kirsch

Marilyn Kirsch


  1. In the US, Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is the "unofficial end of summer," while elsewhere it is identified as May Day, traditionally the first day of summer. Many Americans schedule their two-week vacations for the end of August, and many fall activities, such as school and sports, begin about this time. National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) teams usually play their first games on Labor Day weekend, and the National Football League (NFL) kickoff game is on the following Thursday. To take advantage of large numbers of potential customers with free time to shop, many retailers hold sales, making it second only to the Christmas season's Black Friday. In 1882, the secretary of New York’s Central Labor Union, Matthew Maguire, and Peter J. McGuire of the American Federation of Labor, had proposed a Labor Day holiday. Oregon became the first state to have one (in 1887), followed by 29 other states by 1894. During a severe depression, the Pullman Palace Car Company cut wages; workers complained that their wages had been cut but not their rents in their company housing in Pullman, south of Chicago, but the company owner, George Pullman, refused to lower rents or go to arbitration. In response workers joined the new American Railway Union, one of the first industrial unions in the US(unlike craft unions, which are organized by job skill, an industrial union organizes on the basis of common employment) led by Eugene V. Debs, a former Indiana state legislator, The union launched a boycott on 26 June 1894 and ARU members refused to operate trains containing Pullman cars. Within four days, 125,000 workers on 29 railroads "walked off" the job, and eventually some 250,000 workers in 27 states were involved, costing $80 million in damage (though the boycott was opposed by the other railroad unions and the American Federation of Labor). Richard Olney (who still received a $10,000 retainer from the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad, in addition to the $8,000 salary he got as attorney general) obtained a federal injunction barring union leaders from supporting the strike and demanding that the strikers go back to work or be fired. Debs ignored the injunction, though he ordered the strikers to stop interfering with trains that carried mail cars, and President Grover Cleveland ordered US Marshals and troops under brigadier general Nelson Miles to maintain the delivery of the mails. After 30 strikers were killed and 57 wounded, Congress unanimously voted to approve legislation to make Labor Day a national holiday, and Cleveland signed it into law six days after the end of the strike. (The ARU was dissolved, and Debs imprisoned for six months for violating a court order; while there he became a dedicated socialist. Almost immediately after his release he persuaded the American Railway Union membership to join with the Brotherhood of the Cooperative Commonwealth to found the Social Democracy of America in 1897; when it split in 1897 he led the majority faction to form the Social Democratic Party in 1898 and then, in 1901, the Socialist Party of America, which nominated him for president in 1904, 1908, 1912, and, though in jail again for interfering with conscription, 1920, when he got 3.41% of the votes; and in 1905 he helped organize the Industrial Workers of the World [“Wobblies”] in Chicago.

  2. Outside the US, however, Labor Day is usually celebrated on 1 May; sometimes called International Workers' Day, it is a celebration of workers and the working classes promoted by the international labor movement, socialists, communists, and anarchists. Ironically, the May holiday was chosen to commemorate the aftermath of what had begun in 1886 as a peaceful rally in Haymarket Square in Chicago, Illinois, in support of a general strike for an eight-hour day but led to the killing of four demonstrators by the police. Eight anarchists were convicted of conspiracy; one was sentenced to 15 years in prison, the seven others to death; the governor commuted two of the death sentences to life in prison, and another committed suicide; but the other four were hanged on November 11, 1887. (The remaining defendants were pardoned in 1893.) Raymond Lavigne called for international demonstrations on the 1890 anniversary of the Chicago protests, leading to the formation of the International Socialist Congress (the “Second International”) in Paris on 14 July 1889 to resume the revolutionary work of the “First International” (the International Workingmen's Association that had dissolved in 1876 due to conflicts between the socialists and the anarchists). The International's 2d Congress in 1891 formally recognized May Day as an annual event, and in 1904 its 6th Conference called on "all Social Democratic Party organizations and trade unions of all countries to demonstrate energetically on the First of May for the legal establishment of the 8-hour day, for the class demands of the proletariat, and for universal peace," making it "mandatory upon the proletarian organizations of all countries to stop work on 1 May, wherever it is possible without injury to the workers.” To counter the day’s association with socialism, in 1955 pope Pius XII dedicated 1 May to "Saint Joseph the Worker," a 1st-century carpenter who became the father of Jesus whose principal feast day has been celebrated on 19 March since the 10th century; the Eastern Orthodox Church celebrates his feast day on the 1st Sunday after the Nativity of Christ. The irony is that May Day was originally an erotic pagan celebration of spring, long condemned by Christians. May itself is named after Maia (Greed for “nurse”), the Greek and Roman goddess of fertility, and the beginning of the month was associated with the Floralia (the festival of the Roman goddess of flowers), the Hexennacht (“Witches’ Night“) of the Germans (relabeled as Walpurgisnacht, the eve of the feast day of St. Walpurga, the 8th-century English abbess who took Christianity to the Franks), and Lá Bealtaine (one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals). But since the 18th century, Catholics have informally attached the pagan celebrations to manifestations of Mary, the mother of Jesus. By this date, seeding was over and it was convenient to celebrate springtime fertility. When the Puritans ruled England in the 17th century between the execution of Charles I and the restoration of Charles II, May Day was abolished and its celebration banned. In many places the pagan ("Green Root") traditions have popularly merged with the modern revolutionary ("Red Root") associations.


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