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Monday, September 07, 2015


by George Salamon

"We don't really care if the economy is in tatters'cause no one is doing badly; well, at least no one who matters."               —“Send a Billionaire to Camp," Union Song by Davis Gloff

Hey, folks, you old enough to remember
When Labor Day was for America's working stiff?
For the bricklayer, printer, the waitress in the diner.
Well, today our masses celebrate something finer:
The lifestyles of the rich and famous,
The antics of adolescent celebrities and pubescent starlets
Where once, in the decade after Rosie the Riveter
Chester Riley the riveter played the backbone of America.

Those were the days but they did end.
Now Labor Day means hunting for bargains at Walmart
Where working stiffs are stiffed every day
And "organized labor" is dirty talk.
Politicians mumble "working American"
The way TV anchors slur over "sex offender"
Before moving on to the latest thrill
Provided by the Kardashians and their kin.

The blue-collar life is for losers,
An occasional joke for sitcoms' white collar elite,
For the upwardly mobile professionals we
All want to be with fewer than ever making it.
Blue-collar misery, studies tell us, is a
Life-long journey and the American Dream reserved for a few,
For masters of the resume who become priests in the
Church at the intersection of Wall Street and Capitol Hill.

There's nothing to celebrate on Labor Day if
You're toiling on the assembly line or sweating on the loading platform,
If your collar is blue and the music of your life even bluer.
You got sourced out and sold out by business and government.
You are anachronisms fearfully waiting to be replaced by the robots of tomorrow.
So, indulge in a bit of nostalgia on Labor Day and listen to Pete Seeger doing
"Solidarity Forever" or Phil Ochs singing "The Ballad of Joe Hill."
A touch of sweetness for life's bitter pill.

George Salamon taught German literature and culture at several East Coast colleges, served as staff reporter for the St. Louis Business Journal and senior editor on Defense Systems Review. He published a study of Arnold Zweig's novels of Word War One and a reader in German history. He contributes to the Gateway Journalism Review, Jewish Currents and The New Verse News from St. Louis, MO.