On Monday, we drove to Madison for Laborfest. It was a celebration of workers rights and a call for workers’ justice. Though the temperatures were in the nineties, the place was bustling with unions, students and organizations all championing labor, all trying to impress upon us the very real need to respect and give dignity to those who are the ones keeping it all going.
I enjoyed seeing old friends, all activists striving for a better day.
And I appreciated meeting new friends, most young and passionate. It reminded me of younger years as I challenged our government’s choice to war with Vietnam and as I allowed myself to question our role in the overthrow of Salvador Allende. Signing up for socialist information made a lot of sense. Still does if you need a dose of new possibilities.
I grew up in a union enclave. My father and uncles worked union jobs and we lived in the midst of steel mills, glass, paint and lumber factories. Much of that came tumbling down in the late 70’s when the mills left the area for cheaper labor abroad. A lot more changes followed. The playgrounds, swimming pool and other amenities available to blue-collar families disappeared.
The camaraderie that had been forged in our little neighborhoods began to shift as fear of other and "Keeping up with the Joneses" took on whole new meanings.
It’s not a new story. It’s boringly old. The rich get richer and the poor are told they are poor because they are lazy, or because that’s the way God planned it. There’s nothing new here.
But being with the earnest people who know better days are still before us, and that better ways are still possible stirred my thinking and fueled my hope.
Here’s to the rise of human dignity. And to all who champion it!
Dena Eakles - Sept 6, 2023