Labor Day 2019
by Veterans Cannabis Coalition
Today is Labor Day in the USA. It means a federal holiday, numerous end of summer celebrations, and, like every holiday in the U.S., an opportunity to sell stuff.
But Labor Day did not come into existence because the federal government--or any government--wanted to honor the sacrifices and tireless work of the people who built this country. There was no interest in 1894 in acknowledging the contributions of the millions of former slaves and free African-Americans, or Mexican and Central American migrants, or Chinese, Irish, Polish, Italian, or a dozen other ethnic communities.
In 1894, the federal government under the administration of President Grover Cleveland wanted to bring a swift end to the Pullman Strike, a labor demonstration that started in #Chicago and eventually spread around the country. Eugene Debs, one of the most prominent labor organizers in US history, coordinated a boycott and strike among employees of the Pullman Company, a manufacturer of railroad cars. The strike began over working conditions and wages and eventually involved 250,000 workers in hundreds of towns and cities.
But because the Pullman Strike interfered in the transport of mail, the federal government had legal standing to intervene. Cleveland sent thousands of Marshals and National Guardsmen to break the strike--30 strikers were killed in violence around the country. In an attempt to build support in an election year, Cleveland reluctantly signed legislation creating Labor Day six days after the end of the strike. He did not win reelection.
We have largely forgotten that the 40-hour work-week, weekends, the minimum wage, and basic safety protections were all purchased with the sweat and blood of individuals who organized to have their rights recognized. Working to end cannabis prohibition is just one more iteration in our human struggle to be more compassionate, just, and wise. The shape of the struggle changes, but its nature does not. Remember: an injury to one is an injury to all. We all have to make a choice about who we fight for.