Labor Day 2010
By Michael Boyajian
I grew up in a union household. My father was a photoengraver. As kids my brother and sister and I would argue politics around the kitchen table. Occasionally my father would say, “You can say anything you want but never bad mouth the unions.” You see the union put food on our table, paid for our healthcare and helped with our educations.
That was what was racing through my head when I showed up at Dutchess County Legislator Joel Tyner’s 15th annual Labor Day rally in Poughkeepsie and on the spur of the moment Joel asked me to speak later in the program.
We heard speeches from all sorts of local labor leaders, politicians and even an elderly professor. They all had the same message; labor was being assaulted like never before by the wealthy class who were out to destroy the American middle class. In between speeches folk musicians sang songs about the labor movement. Then assembly candidate Alyssa Kogon took the stage and told everyone how she was going to clean up the mess up in Albany and that is when a bell went off in my head and I knew what I was going to talk about.
I was just about the last speaker and I went up and introduced myself as the former labor judge for New York State and how I had worked in that position at the State Employment Relations Board and then I talked about some of our cases like the one where we brought the Catholic Church to the bargaining table with the Catholic school teachers. Then I told them how we had saved live music in New York City because some corporation wanted to use a machine instead of orchestras at shows and performances.
Finally I told them how we had unionized 50,000 child care workers in the state which amounted to one fifth of the nationwide union growth that year and that we planned to unionize domestic workers next and then the farm workers but that didn’t happen because the state turned around and laid me off and then shut down the whole agency which had been around for 70 years. We were no longer needed because to Albany the labor movement had become an inconvenient truth. So if you think labor is under assault you better believe it and its happening right here in New York.
After the speech some union leaders came up to me and we talked about my cases and how card check worked but that corporations had spread disinformation about it at the national level scaring away Congressional support. We have had card check here in New York for years and nothing bad has happened and that is the problem today. All the big shots are scaring all the little people so good things no longer happen and the people who spread the fear are about to come back into power and that is the really frustrating part about being a worker today on Labor Day 2010. But we are going to be heard because labor is marching on Washington D.C. on October 2 and we are all going to be heard loud and clear on that day.