I have attended a conference of the Pennsylvania Labor History Society (PLHS), taking place in Erie. I’m proud to be a life member of this group dedicated to raising up the history of workers organizing for their rights, the kind of history that has for SOME reason been excluded from our history books. School children need to learn of this kind of history, of working people seeking a better life through banding together.
Today’s discussions included a talk by Doctor Judy Lynch about the forming of worker organizations in the 19th Century, which were treated by the courts and the law as criminal conspiracies. The unions of that time called themselves “benevolent societies”, providing assistance to members during hard times and burial benefits, and trying to show they are not threats to the social order or criminal conspiracies. But, alas, the bosses, with the government behind them, sought to crush any and all efforts by workers to uplift themselves.
All over Pennsylvania, and every state in the Union, there is labor history, and we need to work to dig it up and let the world know of it. Yes, the labor movement is imperfect, it followed the prejudices and conventions of the era, and many sought to make themselves acceptable to the public, like Sam Gompers tried to do with the old AFL. But the trade union movement has been one of America’s greatest social movements, uplifting workers to higher living standards. I urge all people to please support the labor movement, and join a union if you are not already in one, to find protection and empowerment.