All of Us Need to Learn the Lessons From Organized Labor

DeMaurice Smith, executive director of the NFLPA, about Michigan’s recent passage of anti-worker solidarity laws (aka ‘right-to-work’; boldface mine):

I used to say that we have forgotten a lot of the lessons from organized labor over the last 100 years, but I’m now convinced that we never learned them. Whether your talking about fire escapes outside of buildings or sprinkler systems inside of buildings, fair wages for a days work, laws that prevent child labor, things that led to the abolishing of sweatshops in America, let alone management contributing to healthcare plans or a decent pension.… all those things over the last 100 years were not gifts from management. Someone in a corporate suite didn’t decide one day that they would bestow that wonderful right upon a working person. The way those rights were achieved was through the collective will of a group of workers who stood together and said, ‘This is what we believe is fair, and we are all going to stand together and demand that those things be provided to us. We’ll do it as a collective group. You may be able to pick off one of us or two of us or five of us, but you will not be able to pick off all of us.’ When you look at legislation that is designed to tear apart that ability to work as a team…that is not just anti-union. That is anti–working man and woman, and that’s why we weighed in.

Sounds similar to something said in Memphis, 1968:

Never forget that freedom is not something that must be demanded by the oppressor. It is something that must be demanded by the oppressed. Freedom is not some lavish dish that the power structure and the white forces imparted with making positions will voluntarily hand down on a silver platter while the Negro merely furnishes the appetite.

If we are going to get equality, if we are going to get adequate wages, we are going to have to struggle for it.

What is tragic is how so many people are arrogant and are too afraid that they might need someone else’s help to weather the storm. We still have a lot of learning to do.

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