Labor Day’s Remote Parade

Sep 8, 2020 by

There was no Labor Day parade this year, but that was because of the pandemic, thankfully not a lack of enthusiastic recognition of the contribution of working people.  The celebration was “remote” but the meaning of the holiday is not lost on us.  Credit these bizarre times in part for that “silver lining.”

If we were living in normal times, commentaries on Labor Day would be the literary equivalent of stock footage that could be plucked from an old file and recycled.  But this year is not interchangeable with any other.
Labor unions, which have been the vanguard of middle class upward mobility, are still despised by certain intractable elements in our society and always will be. Nothing can be done to persuade the warriors of modern feudalism of the errors of their instincts. They want to break the spirit of the striving masses, not break bread with them.

But this year, one of the venerable arguments for labor unions is especially rejuvenated in our consciousness.  It is not just wages, which is the primary focus of their existence that comes immediately to most people’s minds.  It is the Union as quite literally a guardian of life and liberty.  When there was a politically-driven rush to re-open schools, despite the COVID risks, it was the teachers unions that was the force for intransigent sanity. 

They were prepared for any sacrifice to confront and elude an existential threat not just to their members but also other adults and children.

Other unions have also stood their ground on principle that transcends negotiation. Unions are far more than collective bargaining agents.  They have evolved into full scale social and humanitarian operations.  Teachers unions especially are deeply committed to the kind of community outreach that equals or surpasses some major religious institutions.

Just a week or so after Labor Day is the solemn anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.  In the midst and wake of the devastation, it was union members who resurrected our city.  Think of the first-responders and the workers who did a trillion tasks requiring every the perfect coordination and specialization mastery of electrical, plumbing, communication, steam-fitting and iron-working.  And the unspeakable complexities of the signal and other system that make our subways a wonder of the world.

In construction, medicine, transportation, education and every precinct of human endeavor, it is working people who have not only enabled progress for all of society, but defined it.

We are all laborers and this holiday, with or without a parade, celebrates the nation we have built up and the incontestable dignity of our personhood as individuals.

This was and is our land!
Ron Isaac

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