It’s Labor Day weekend—these days a convenient marker as a transition from summer to fall, from vacation to school. But let’s not forget that Labor Day is to celebrate workers & workers’ rights—& the struggle to gain those rights, which we should be very loathe to see eroded. In fact, Labor Day began to commemorate the deaths of workers at the hands the US military & US marshalls during during the 1894 Pullman Strike. These are the ultimate sacrifices that many have had to give for justice; I think it’s important to remember that on this weekend.
As a help in that remembrance, I offer one of the best of the Labor songs, “Which Side Are You On?” This was written by Florence Reese in 1931. Mrs Reese was married to a union organizer, & the song was written after an evening in which she & her children were terrorized by deputies hired by mine owners in an attempt to intimidate the family. This version, with a powerful vocal by Natalie Merchant backed only by a banjo, is a moving rendition.
I’m often reminded of the saying painted as part of the mural on the side of the Anarchist Collective Bookshop in San Francisco: “History remembers two kinds of people, those who murder and those who fight back.” Please take a moment to contemplate the sacrifices made by those who have come before us.