American Minute with Bill Federer

SEPT. 2 -Labor Day-'I call upon ordinary working men of not become weak'-Solzhenitsyn
Labor Day began over 100 years.

To appreciate it, one needs to know the history preceding it.

At the time the United States was founded, most jobs were agricultural or in trades, such as blacksmiths, cobblers, bakers, upholsterers, etc.

Then Industrial Revolution began with the harnessing of water and steam power, leading to the creation of factories which could mass produce items inexpensively.

Most factories were located in the Northern States.

In early United States history, there was no Income Tax.

The Federal Government was funded primarily from: Excise Taxes on items like salt, tobacco, liquor; and Tariff Taxes on imports making them more expensive, so people would buy goods produced in American factories.

The problem was that the Tariff Taxes that helped the North, hurt the South, as the South had no factories to protect. At one point, nearly 90% of the Federal Budget was from Tariff Taxes collected at Southern Ports, fueling the animosity which led up to the Civil War.

After the Civil War, the North passed more Tariff Taxes which allowed factories to grow enormous.

Inventions and advances in manufacturing made more and more goods available to the masses of people at cheaper and cheaper prices, resulting in the fastest increase in the standard of living and per capita income for common men and women in world history.

Textile manufacturing produced items like clothes, glass, dishes, and farm tools for a fraction of the previous costs.

New ways of making stronger steel led to the building of bridges, buildings, steamboats, and mining machinery.

Railroads now could take people safely and inexpensively across the entire nation opening up unprecedented mobility and opportunity.

Immigrants arriving in America could get jobs working in factories.

George Pullman founded a Pullman Railroad Sleeping Car Company in Illinois just outside of Chicago.

He saw that workers needed a place to live, so he built them houses in a safe little village around the factory. Their rent was deducted from their paychecks and they were paid in company script.

There were company owned grocery stores. It was thought to be a utopian workers' community and worked well for over a decade.

Then something happened.

In 1893, there was a nationwide economic depression and orders for railroad sleeping cars declined.

George Pullman had to lay off hundreds of employees, and make cuts in wages to the rest, though the rent and groceries stayed the same price.


Employees walked out, demanding lower rents and higher pay. Growing discontent provided a seedbed for Karl Marx's theory of class struggle and Communist redistribution of wealth.

A young worker named Eugene V. Debs led a strike of workers, and railroad workers across the nation boycotted trains carrying Pullman cars.

There was rioting, pillaging, and burning of railroad cars. It became a national issue when mail trains were interrupted.

President Grover Cleveland declared the strike a federal crime and deployed 12,000 troops to break the strike. More violence erupted, and two men were killed.

It was an election year, and Grover Cleveland thought it would help his re-election if he appease the workers, so he pushed through a National Labor Day.

He chose the first Monday in September, rather than May 1, as he did not want it to be in coordination with the Communist "International Workers Day."

Eugene Debs went to prison and Cleveland lost the election, but Labor Day remained a national holiday.

Unions successfully advocated the 8 hour day, the 40 hour work week, minimum wages, safer working conditions, and more benefits for workers.

With these unprecedented improvements came a consequence: "out-sourcing."

After World War II, America helped rebuild Germany and Japan, and a global economy emerged.

With other countries having newer factories and cheaper labor, they could produce items for less, whereas in America costs continued to increase with:

-Higher wages;
-Increased taxes;
-Expensive lawsuits;
-Burdensome government regulations;
-Greater environmental restrictions; and
-Crony capitalism, where the government favors particular companies which support a political agenda, leaving other companies at a financial disadvantage.

These cost increases resulted in American made goods being more expensive as compared to foreign made goods. As people buy less American made products, American factories shut down and jobs disappeared.

In 1950, about 50 percent of workers were union members, but today it has shrunk to around 12 percent.

To bring jobs back to America, the answer is as simple as making it more profitable for factories to be located here than there.

Alexander Solzhenitsyn, who spent 11 years in Communist prisons and labor camps, warned on June 30, 1975, in Washington, D.C.:

"I would like to call upon America to be more careful with its trust...

and prevent those...because of short-sightedness and still others out of self-interest, from falsely using the struggle for peace and for social justice to lead you down a false road.

Because they are trying to weaken you; they are trying to disarm your strong and magnificent country in the face of this fearful threat...

I call upon you: ordinary working men of not let yourselves become weak."

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