Jottings By An Employer's Lawyer

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

May Day? A Lack of A Call?

Earlier this morning I received an email forwarded from the management company in the downtown office building where I work, advising that there could be traffic issues arising out of protest activities planned for this afternoon.

That reminded me that I had meant to post about the alternative labor day, that has been much talked about in certain circles. But as the morning slipped away, I thought surely that the topic had been well covered by other bloggers. But when I checked my google reader, where I have a large, although by no means complete collection of labor/employment type blogs, nary a word today.

I have become a fan of MSNBC's Up with Chris Hayes and this week end one of his panel's talked a lot about the the failure of the Employee Free Choice Act,  plans for May Day activities sponsored by Occupy Wall Street and the general state of the labor union movement in America.

Hayes, who regardless of what of you think of his views, is clearly a bright and deep thinker, made a comment that he was shocked to learn that the May Day movement, which like many, I have always associated with celebrations in the Soviet Union, originated in the United States and was tied to one of our most infamous moments in labor history the Haymarket Riot which occurred in Chicago on May 4, 1886. 

From the Dissident Voice, a radical newsletter in the struggle for piece and social justice (so you know the perspective it is taking) Jerry Elmer penned this article, The Haymarket Riot and the Origins of May Day. Even the overseas press new more about its origins than I did. See, A potted history of Labour Day, from the Irish Times.

I have done far more employment than labor law in my career, and what labor law I have done has been on the side of management.   I am by no means convinced that labor as we have known it in the recent past is the answer to the future.

I do think however, that we are long past due for a non-partisan look at our economic system and the world of work and just how it functions. In any such conversation, all sides must have a serious and listened to voice. 

Although any marching analogy on May Day is fraught with peril, what I fear most is that rather than moving toward such an important discussion each day we are marching more and more stridently in the opposite direction.

Ultimately, regardless of whether there is a short term winner to that approach or not, I am afraid that our society as a whole will be the loser.

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