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Monday, September 03, 2007

Labor Day 2007: Planting the seed of a song

In honor of the workers past, present and future who have made this country what it is and what it will become, here are a few links to fill in the gaps of our laboring minds:

1. Answers.com has a collection of articles on the history of the Labor Day, which was first conceived by the Knights of Labor in 1882 before being formally recognized by the U.S. Congress as a national holiday in 1894.

2. The AFL-CIO has a very resource-full page of links to Labor History Sites on the Web. The industrious can bone up on the struggles that won us such now taked-for-granted rights as collective bargaining, worker's comp and the 8-hour work day. Of course, in many ways that's all up for grabs again in our era of automation, out-sourcing, and global competition.

3. To explore labor history through a less prosaic prism, check out two web sites: Labor Arts and the Labor Heritage Foundation. There's a definite old-school lefty look to some of the art, but there's also a wealth of information on union-themed songs, books, photographs and paintings.

If all of that research is too much effort on a well-deserved day off, simply celebrate the day by listening to a song by working-class balladeer Woody Guthrie. The struggles today are quite different, but from within the kernel of that past our future path is unfolding.

I Guess I Planted
by Woody Guthrie

I guess I planted some long lonesome seed of a song
Way down inside me long ago
And now I can't remember when it was
But it joined up with the rest of them and grows
It's such a little song it don't compare
With all your big ones you hear everywhere
But when it dawns away in the back of your mind
The big ones are made up of the little kind

Union song. Union battled.
All added up. Won us all what we got now.

I can't even start to look around me here
Without hearing this song
And seeing all of us first separated
Hurt, apart, and afraid
And hungry for the union
And so we kept on
Singing and working, fighting till we got it.
And this is the big union song I guess I hear.

We fought there at your place
We fought there on your ship
And I guess if you missed out on the fight for our union
You missed out on one awful big step
Us people took.
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