Amilcar Cabral said: “We tell no lies and claim no easy victories. Are we going to ignore labor’s past or only claim the good? No, we have so much to be proud of, but we also have a legacy of pain and exclusion. We claim Ben Fletcher, a fierce Black IWW dock worker who formed one of the most enduring and fearless multi-racial unions in the history of the U.S., as a model of working class power. We also have the Philadelphia Streetcar workers who went on strike in 1944 to prevent Black drivers from driving, or Samuel Gompers who was a strong supporter of segregation and encouraged the destruction of Black workers organizations. It is this mixed history that makes the old union song Which Side Are You On a hymn when sung by settler workers and a blues when sung by black workers. It is this past that makes this Labor Day so important as we assert that we; “Tell no lies and claim no easy victories”.
The prisons chock a block with the working poor, our cities are crumbling, our public schools under constant attack, our immigrant neighbors targeted and threatened, mass demonstrations of anti-black terrorists, our queer siblings cut out and isolated, even our children used as centers for profit. There is no end to the creativity of the bosses and the politicians they hire. We watch as the Confederate flag alongside the Nazi flag is flying on our soil. This assault on us is real and total, there is no quarter offered to us as the safety net is clipped away to line the pockets of the greedy.
It is this Labor’s Day that we put ourselves into history’s service, not as pawns like the bosses wish, but as the authors, architects, makers, and builders of a future that is open and unapologetic in our stand against racism and fear. On Labor Days to come, let our children and our children’s children mark what was done here in Providence on Labor’s Day 2017.
That we the members of battered unions, tired fast food workers, and struggling health care workers stood together to say enough. That the wounds we carry are the binding contract to the future that holds to account those who try to divide us. Let the racists remember with a shudder that we working people are the masters of this world and if you attempt to harm us we will organize the next. We offer no home to racism, xenophobia, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Semitism, in our hands, in our halls. in our hearts, or in our heads. Let this wave of hate break on the rock of labor for we will not be bowed.