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Chris Smalls and his new, fellow, grassroots labor leaders hope to burn their respective oligarchs. Image from Hot Labor Summer.

When Every Day Is Labor Day

Abby Zimet

It's been well over 100 years since Socialist, union organizer and ever-hopeful presidential candidate Eugene Debs looked around him, saw signs of labor preparation "upon every hand," and declared, "The working class are mustering their mighty forces for political and economic conquest." In a 1903 address honoring a Labor Day "for counsel and meditation (to) prepare for the greater work yet to be done," Debs called on "workingmen" to "realize that your interests are the same...that united you can and will conquer the earth!" "We never hear of Capital Day...because every day is Capital Day," he noted. "The struggle in which we are now engaged will end only when every day is Labor Day."

Today, many see glimmers of a woefully belated "labor mobilization moment," with stunning, grassroots successes, often led by young workers, at behemoths Amazon, Starbucks, Chipotle and Trader Joe's, and public support for unions at its highest in decades. One of the coolest victories came in April at a Staten Island Amazon warehouse where Chris Small organized over 8,000 former fellow-workers into the first Amazon Labor Union. Smalls is still at it: He was just threatened with arrest for occupying a bus stop outside an Albany warehouse - "You've been advised" - because nothing says democracy like a corporation getting a police chief to throw a union leader out of a public bus stop.

On Monday, Small marked a Hot Labor Summer - "a spicy cocktail to celebrate the growing power of the working class" - by leading thousands in a "beautiful Labor Day" march in New York, the ultimate union town. Wearing a t-shirt that read, "I am, you are, we are the ALU," he spoke at a Time Square rally - with signs reading, "Bezos' Billions Stolen from Workers" and "There Is No Boss Without the Worker" - to demand both Bezos and Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz recognize their worker-led unions. Then, to further make their point, the crowd marched to the palatial homes of each oligarch. Their (admittedly more profane) message echoed Debs': Thank a union today.


Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email: azimet18@gmail.com

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