New Monday Feature: Spotlight On American Labor History

March 28, 2017
By Bill Hohlfeld

The Haymarket Riot of 1886.

Editor’s Note: Beginning today, and continuing every Monday thereafter, LaborPress  presents “Spotlight on American History” with Bill Hohlfeld. We hope you enjoy the new weekly feature and continue returning to these pages for more fascinating true stories in the struggle for worker rights. 

As many of you already know, every week on LaborPress’s radio program, “Blue Collar Buzz,” we end the broadcast with something we call “Spotlight on American Labor History.” The latest segment happens to feature the 1937 Supreme Court ruling entitled, “West Coast Hotel Co. v. Parrish,” and it invites our listening audience to harken back to a time in America that was not particularly worker friendly. Unfortunately, it’s an era some in this country are only too happy to return.

As we proceed in the weeks to come, we at LaborPress will endeavor to shine our spotlight on every corner of American history that pertains to working Americans (about 99% of us).In some cases, it will highlight great triumphs. However, it will also shed light on some dark corners where we need to look, so that we may gain perspective on just how much of a struggle it was for Americans to find a voice in the workplace.

Our goal is not to continuously carp about injustice, nor is it to send a signal that all the battles are won and it is time for a riotous victory dance. Our intent, rather, is to look as objectively as possible at the distance that the American labor movement has traveled; celebrate its strength and tenacity; generate awareness of, and gratitude to, so many who have come before us. And finally, to try and learn from the mistakes of the past, so that we do not stumble blindly into the pitfalls that surely await us now, and in the future.

It was in March of 1775 that one of America’s earliest and fiercest patriots, Mr. Patrick Henry, gave his famous “Give me liberty or give me death!” speech before the Virginia House of Burgesses at St. John's Church. Early in the address he made the point: I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past.”  While the esteemed Mr. Henry was, of course, referring to the actions and intentions of the British Empire, the same logic applies to our mission. That is  to use our Spotlight on American Labor History as our very own “lamp of experience.”


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