Labor daze

A little learning is a dangerous thing.

Reg’lars here at the Chuckle Hut know I once was a fan of all the Marx Brothers (Groucho, Harpo, Chico, Zeppo, Gummo and Karl).

Well, not so much Zeppo and Gummo.

Groucho, Harpo and Chico I stumbled across early on. Karl and I became acquainted in my second stab at college, where I enjoyed a brief flirtation with non-comedic Marxism — the Young Socialist Alliance/Socialist Workers Party, a Trotskyite crew, and the October League, a Maoist group that later became the Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist).

I’m not sure why a middle-class white boy wandered so far afield from the Republicrat-Demublican game of musical thrones.

There was the war in Vietnam, of course, but I was a year too young for the lottery and wouldn’t have volunteered until the Viet Cong were actually in Colorado and executing dope dealers.

The Yippies’ street theatricality appealed to me — I even tried to register as a Yippie for Nixon-McGovern ’72 — but the SWP and CP(ML) were decidedly unfunny, like a Marx Brothers movie starring Zeppo and Gummo.

Maybe it was working as a janitor as a college dropout. (Check out this NYT story about janitors then vs. janitors now.)

I didn’t push the idiot stick for big outfits like Kodak or Apple, but for smaller shops that were already outsourcing their cleanup to even smaller shops, like the one that employed me. My work took me to a couple downtown banks, a northside UPS location, a Salvation Army youth center and a southside sales office. No car, so I pedaled from place to place on a Schwinn Continental, a bicycle commuter before it was cool.

There were no opportunities for advancement at that job, or any of the others I worked before finally landing a copyboy gig at the Colorado Springs Sun. I found I liked newspaper work, and wanted to stay, but the managing editor said I’d be going nowhere fast without that ol’ sheepskin, so back I went to college, where Karl, Leon and Mao were loitering around, waiting for me to turn up.

Then the war finally ended, the Revolution fizzled, and I moved on, eventually finding myself with a B.A. in journalism and a job at the other newspaper in Bibleburg, the Gazette Telegraph.

The GT was a libertarian rag, owned by Freedom Newspapers out of Orange County, Calif., and it leaned so far right it was almost left. As a consequence the wages were low and the hours illegal, but it wasn’t long before I was offered a chance for advancement: heading up the education desk, which consisted of two other reporters plus Your Humble Narrator, who was so wet behind the ears you could have raised goldfish in my hair.

It was at that moment that I knew management was incompetent, and perhaps insane. And my sympathies returned to labor, where they have remained ever since.

Happy Labor Day.

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10 Responses to “Labor daze”

  1. Pat O'Brien Says:

    Me too. But, it may be too late, just like with the climate.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I know you’ll find this shocking, but I have problems with authority. Especially when I’m the authority. The few times I’ve had a title in front of my moniker it’s always been in lieu of money. Responsibility without authority. No, thank you, I’ll just sit here in the back of the room and roll my eyes.

  2. Libby Says:

    Thanks, Patrick. My thoughts turned to my work history and workplaces over the weekend. Over half of it was spent as a union member and I was glad of it.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I only worked for the one union newspaper, Libby. I was surprised at how casually the newsroom staff took its hard-won collective-bargaining power. Nobody wanted to pay dues or do the union work, the owner was forever crowbarring people out of the contract and into “management” roles, and before long the union had fewer teeth and testicles than does Mister Boo.

  3. Carl Duellman Says:

    i wonder if the supposed coming of more blue collar work, if the unions will rise up again?

  4. Shawn Says:

    I wonder if the American worker hasn’t got their heads up their smartphone asses too far to think about coalescing for proper blue collar rights…… The marketing of the corporate powers is very effective in motivating us to be “gotta have” consumers requiring us to work for whatever-we-can-get wages to pay for our debts.

    A portion of our youth may be the savings grace to this directive control. They seem to be blowing off the materialistic habits of their parents and stepping into more reasonable living preferences. I hope for their sake, this more reasonable standard expands to a greater portion of society.

    Capitalism capitalizes on those capable of taking advantage of those less capable. And corporations do not answer to the humanity required for ethical standards of society. We live in a bubble that really isn’t the best for everybody…… Unfortunately, the other methods of society (communism, et al) do not tolerate the imperfections of human desire…….

    Rant, rant, rant….. Oh crap, my soapbox has a hole in it…… and the floodwaters are arisin’

    Smokeville, Oregon

    • Herb Clevenger Says:

      “Capitalism capitalizes on those capable of taking advantage of those less capable.” Sean did you come up with that? It pretty well nails what the real problem is in America. Was a time when the owner or CEO of a company took care of their workers (union or not) instead of holding them down while fattening their own purses.
      I’ve been in the Teamsters and the AFL-CIO neither of which did squat for me. Yet I support the idea of unions but one must keep a very sharp eye on the execs there too.

  5. Herbert Case Says:

    Great read! I never understood why ANYONE wanted to be the “boss”………My only boss now is “she who must be….”

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