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Labor Day

“An Address To The Public”

Homestead, Pa

Site of the July 6, 1892 Battle of Homestead, Pa on the Monongahela River (7/17/12)

Seeing that I could find no statements or press releases or demands from my environmental colleagues expressing solidarity with labor, celebrating the achievements of the labor movement, and calling for a massive new jobs program to rebuild crumbling infrastructure and transition to renewable energy, I thought I’d post a little labor history.

I was able to visit the Homestead site with my friends from Pittsburgh, Loretta and Ken Weir, and Mel Packer of the Merton Center – wonderful people who are incredible labor, anti-fracking, and social justice advocates and activists.

You can read a summary of the Battle of Homestead – but here are the workers’ own words, which resonate so strongly today in our New Gilded Age of Oligarchs:

“An Address to the Public”

Issued by the Advisory Committee, the Knights of Labor, and the Amalgamated Association of Iron and Steelworkers – Homestead Pa., July 22-23, 1892

The most evident characteristic of our time and country is the phenomenon of industrial centralization, which is putting the control of our great national industries into the hands of one or a few men and giving these men an enormous and despotic power over the lives and the fortunes of their employees and subordinates – the great mass of the people; [it is] a power which eviscerates our national constitution and our common law … a power which, though expressed in terms of current speech as the right of employers to mange their business[es] to suit themselves, is coming to mean nothing less than to manage the country to suit themselves.

The employees in the mill of Messrs. Carnegie, Phipps & Co. at Homestead Pa., have built there a town with its homes, its schools, and its churches; have for many years been faithful co-workers with the company in the business of the mill; have invested thousands of dollars of their savings in said mill in the expectation of spending their lives in Homestead and working in the mill during the period of their efficiency …

Therefore the Committee desires to express to the public as its firm belief that both the public and the employees aforesaid have equitable rights and interests in the said mill which can not be modified or diverted without due process of law; that the employees have the right to continuous employment in the said mill during efficiency and good behavior without regard to religious, political, or economic opinions or associations; that it is against public policy and subversive of the fundamental principles of American liberty that a whole community of workers should be denied employment or suffer any other social detriment on account of membership in a church, a political party or a trade union; that it is our duty as American citizens to resist with every legal and ordinary means the unconstitutional, anarchic and revolutionary policy of the Carnegie Company, which seems to evince a contempt for public and private interests and a disdain for the public conscience …

"Workmen Cannonading the Barges" (1892)

“Workmen Cannonading the Barges” (1892) (shot on (7/17/12)

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