When you come from Detroit, labor is in your blood. Certainly, there are endless stories of the battles between people who were pro and con labor. Crossing a labor picket line at one time could have cost you…well everything. There had to be unity in the union, or the union wouldn’t work.
But I’ll start out with the dry stuff, the good stuff. Labor Day this year is on September 5. It’s always the first Monday of September. Hurray, a three-day weekend before summer is put to bed for one more year.
One of the quaint traditions was the strict rule “in all the right homes” to never wear white after Labor Day. The tradition began in the late 19th century by the upper crust of society. My mother was fanatical about it, and I can’t get her voice out of my head each year. If I wear white after Labor Day, I feel guilty.
Labor Day was designed to honor and recognize the American labor movement and the works and contributions of laborers and their achievements in America.
It is believed to have started back on September 5, 1882, with a parade in which union leaders marched. Over 20,000 disgruntled New York workers from a wide variety of industries had enough of working under such unsafe working conditions that they stood up and walked the streets in protest.
Many people do not realize how grim, and at times deadly, work could be before unions in factories, railroads, mills and mines. Employees, including children, were often required to work 12-hour days, six days a week. Over time unions helped working conditions for everyone. President Grover Cleveland made it a federal holiday on June 28, 1894.
Labor Unions are thought of differently now than in the past, as well as thought of differently depending on the state you live in. For a long time Detroit was the “car capital of the nation.”
My family was in the administrative end, so they did not like unions much, but many of our friends worked on the line, and unions were a salvation to their households. Many businesses improved working conditions to try to avoid going union. There are few jobs now that are not better because of some of the basic living conditions unions fought for.
One union that was particularly volatile in my youth was the huge Teamsters union. Back in the day, they were really serious, and you were pretty careful about what you said. My father was good friends with a `’family’ in the trucking business. No food came in or out of Detroit without their approval and maybe a little on the side.
When I was young I did not understand the “heaviness “of what was said around me. One morning on the news the announcer was talking about a burning body thrown on a nearby hospital’s front lawn. My father laughed, saying, “Yeah. Guomo had said to watch out for a ‘torch.’ Someone will get the message.” Torches (burning pro or con union men) were not rare. As my father, no charmer, would say, “Not rare, but well done.”
The restaurant from which Jimmy Hoffa disappeared was near our home, and we had eaten there many times.
Later in my life, when my husband Ron and I owned our electrical construction business, we were a union company. We believed it was good for the employees, even if it cost us (the employers) more. Ron would always say, “You gotta live by your principles or what are you?”
No matter what your feelings are about Labor Day, we all get a holiday out of it,
A POET, A PAINTER, A HECK OF A DAME. I feel sorry for those who did not know Los Banos resident Evelyn Erreca who passed away August 5. She worked in many places, including Napp’s Diner, Carlo’s, Villa, The Donut Shop , the P&M Cheese Store and the Los Banos Convalescent Hospital (as a dietician and cook).
Evelyn hung out a lot around food. But her true love was the arts. I loved her paintings, always vibrant and alive. She would call me to run over and see each creation when it was finished.
We shared a love for writing, and that is probably what brought us together, “like two peas in a pod,” she would say. One of her stories was presented with a certificate of honor on the senate floor.
Evelyn wrote many poems about patriotism. She would say, “Cut me open, and it will run out red, white and blue.” Evelyn was one of those larger-than-life characters that Los Banos has been so blessed with. I honor her with love and respect.