Thousands At St Paul Labor Day
by Al Prochaska
This year’s annual AFL-CIO Labor Day
picnic in St Paul drew 12,000 people, according to a St Paul Police Dept
How they knew this was not disclosed. When
10,000 people marched to the State Capitol to protest the Iraq war in October
2002, the police said 2,000 marched. It would seem to be a lot easier to gauge
how many people are marching past a fixed point than the total number milling
about on a picnic ground.
Still, it was clearly a big crowd, and
significantly larger than previous Labor Day gatherings.
The reason for this, presumably, was the
appearance of Democratic Vice Presidential candidate John Edwards, accompanied
by AFL-CIO president John Sweeney. Warm-up speakers for his appearance included
Garrison Keilor of the St Paul-based radio show Prairie Home Companion, and Jim
Hightower, the Texas humorist and peripatetic huckster for the Democratic party.
What they all had to say was pretty mild,
with very few references to the ongoing war in Iraq and nothing at all
suggesting that we should get out of there altogether and bring the troops home
how, (or any other time, for that matter) a prospect that probably a great
majority of those present were already in favor of.
Edwards, from North Carolina, a smooth and
articulate speaker who sounds a lot like Bill Clinton, spoke without notes. He
mentioned that his mother was a retired postal worker and that his only brother
carried a card in the electricians union. He said he knew what a hard time many
working people were having and several times invoked the theme that “Help Is On
The Way.” He said that after Kerry and Edwards took office, card check
neutrality would be the law of the land. Greedy corporations that go offshore
with American jobs wouldn’t get tax breaks anymore, but that patriotic
corporations that kept American jobs here, would. He didn’t mention any
patriotic corporations by name; perhaps their identities will be revealed in
Kerry’s inaugural remarks.
Edwards said that under Kerry-Edwards
Americans would not be blocked by the Federal government from getting
prescriptions drugs from Canada. He didn’t comment on the anomaly that these
drugs are first manufactured in the United States and then exported to Canada,
where, as everybody knows, they are available for re-importation at lower prices
than in the country of origin.
He said that on the first day in office,
Kerry-Edwards would reverse the Bush administration’s current interpretation of
the recent amendments to the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1940 and that
“Americans would get their overtime back.” He didn’t say anything about
restoring the original goal of the law, which was limitation of labor to forty
hours per week.
There were many social activist groups who
had paid a nominal fee to get a table under one the many tents set up on the
picnic grounds, and under the liberal policies of the St Paul labor body even
the Communist party of Minnesota was permitted to have a table, although there
was no visible presence of the Nader campaign anywhere.
In 1903 at this same site 30,000 workers
and their families attended a daylong Labor Day festival and heard Archbishop
John Ireland introduced by the newly elected African American president the St
Paul Trades and Labor Assembly, Charles James, a leader of the Boot and Shoe
The Archbishop reminders his listeners
that “Capital is stored labor, the fruit and result of labor.”
The Archbishop suggested that the
destruction of the labor guilds in the middle ages had opened the door to the
“Hateful individualism commended by Adam Smith and the Lancastrian School of
Economy,” reducing the laborer “to a mere clod or a piece of machinery.”
As far as could be determined, no comment,
pro or con concerning the Lancastrian School of Economy was heard on the picnic