On May 4, 1886, in Haymarket Square in Chicago, the public rallied peacefully in support of 40,000 workers in Chicago who had gone on strike, to win the right to organize. The police attacked, and eight died.
On July 6, 1892, in Homestead, Pennsylvania, 3800 workers went on strike, to win the right to organize. Three hundred hired and armed goons attacked them. Five people died.
On April 20, 1914, in Ludlow, Colorado, 1200 coal miners went on strike, to win the right to organize. The Colorado National Guard attacked their shantytown, and burned it to the ground. Nineteen people died. Two women and 11 children were asphyxiated, and they burned to death.
Here and around the world, many people have fought and died, so that you and I would have the right to organize.
And so that 250,000 public workers in Wisconsin would have that right, too.
This is not exactly a new idea. Six months after the Ludlow Massacre, President Wilson signed the Clayton Act, prohibiting the prosecution of union members under Antitrust Law. That was almost a century ago.
Two decades later, during the Franklin Roosevelt’s first term as president, he signed the National Labor Relations Act into law. It protects the right to organize. That was over 75 years ago.
The right to organize also is a fundamental principle of international law. Over 150 countries have ratified the “Right to Organize” Convention, an international treaty. It was adopted in 1949, over 60 years ago.
So why are we even talking about this, 11 years into the 21st century?
Because the teabaggers want to “take back America.” They want to take it back, all right — take it all the way back to the 19th century. When there was no right to organize. When people worked for a dollar a day. When grown men competed against children for jobs. When women were barred from most jobs entirely. When you worked until you died.
Not to mention slavery.
I want to see an America that is healthy and wealthy.
They want an America that provides cheap labor to our corporate overlords. An America where the middle class is chained by debt.
We didn’t ask for this fight. But we have no choice except to fight back. For the survival of the middle class in America. For us, for our children, and for our grandchildren. And so that the victims in Haymarket, in Homestead and in Ludlow did not die in vain.
As Cardinal Spellman said 45 years ago, “it is a war thrust upon us, and we cannot yield to tyranny.”
I’m ready to fight for what’s right. What about you?
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