Happy Labor Day: Meyer, Krusty & the Unions


Asked once what he wanted for trade unionists, Samuel Gompers, the founder and first president of the American Labor Federation, is said to have replied: “More.”

His terse answer serves as a one-word Rorschach test for sorting out the conflicting perspectives about unions held by the political forces now arrayed in California’s campaign for governor.

For billionaire Republican nominee Meg Whitman and her corporate allies in the California Chamber of Commerce, it is the insatiable greed for taxpayer dollars by public employee unions that is the fundamental cause of most of the dysfunction and financial distress that afflicts California and its government.

For the members and leaders of those unions, however, Gompers’  pronouncement is simply a guideline for social justice and equality, an effective way to ensure that working people get a fair share of wealth in a world where, as Gompers put it, “the man who has his millions will want everything he can lay his hands on and then raise his voice against the poor devil who wants ten cents more a day.”

And for Democratic candidate Jerry Brown, “more” no doubt describes his hope of what will be forthcoming for him from labor in the final two months of the campaign. As wunderkind Calbuzzer cartoonist Tom Meyer observes today, the union salad bowl (and its $10 million in lettuce) that sustained Brown’s candidacy through the summer, as Whitman bashed him with $24 million of TV ads is unfortunately empty, at least for now.

As Brown prepares to launch his campaign (finally!) with a tour of big Labor Day events around the state, however, he’s no doubt mindful that eMeg has many mega-bucks more to drop on his head before Nov. 2. So he must fervently wish there’ll be lots more green union salad coming his way before long.

This week’s Calbuzz Little Pulitzers:

The Francis Pharcellus Church Award  for Editorial Writing to the Fresno Bee for its sharp-eyed attack on Senator Dianne Feinstein’s below-the-radar  effort to stop Calbuzz redefine the First Amendment.

The Grantland Rice Award for Profound Sports Writing to law student Josh Fisher, whose Dodger Divorce blog is by far the most comprehensive, timely and intelligent reporting and commentary on the big league divorce trial of Frank and Jamie McCourt, the shameless social climbing owners of the Dodgers who have spent far more money on lawyers than on players, the outcome of which will determine the future of the franchise. Giants fans say: Go Frank!

The Walter Lippmann Award for Elite Opinion Mongering to the Washpost’s E.J. Dionne for his latest analysis of how Obama screwed the pooch through his disdain for politicking.

The Truman Capote Award for Fiction/Nonfiction – What’s the Big Difference? — Reporting to Michael Joseph Gross for his Sarah Palin profile in Vanity Fair,  which triggered a frightful journalistic row about accuracy and sourcing and led herself to accuse him of being “limp” and “impotent,” which next resulted in Palin being accused of being a gay-baiting homophobe.

The Nellie Bly Award for Investigative Blogging to Torey “Don’t Call Me Dutch” Van Oot for reporting out the efforts of legislative Democrats to throw big bucks behind their cynical and sneaky effort to take back control of reapportionment from the citizen’s commission approved by voters just two years ago.

Final word for Labor Day

The fight is never about grapes or lettuce. It is always about people.

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There are 5 comments for this post

  1. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    My “more” list:
    More of a voice in our government for ordinary people
    More of the services most of us depend on for a decent life (education, roads, healthcare, etc.)
    More income equality
    More opportunity for young people
    More social justice with equal rights for all
    More care of our world and what makes it livable

    This, to me, is the American Dream. It doesn’t just consist of a bigger car every couple of years or the biggest house on the block. It is founded on democracy and equality. It has been the envy of the world because that foundation produced an enormous flowering of human energy and creativity, with unprecedented opportunity for people to achieve their individual dreams. It produced a government that supported individuals with education, businesses with infrastructure, and the public good through services and protections.

    It’s time we grew up as a country and gave some thought to what truly sustains us as a people and how to preserve it. To the fact that we are more than ever citizens of the world and need to behave that way. And to the future we are creating.

  2. avatar pmcohen says:

    C’mon guys – 30 seconds on the internet finds the source quote, which has a significantly different meaning without the edit. Much like Chris Finnie’s list, in fact:

    “What does labor want? We want more schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning and less vice; more leisure and less greed; more justice and less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures,”

    Not a bad sentiment for Labor Day, or any other day.

    ps Keep up the great work – you guys are my required reading, every day!

    • avatar Roberts and Trounstine says:

      Thanks for kind words PM. SG quote appears variously in various forms, including the one you cite and the one-word version, per link to essay on materialism cited in lede.

  3. avatar Bob Mulholland says:

    A High School student today, if they read of the economic changes of the last 30 years, would realize that those who work by the hour, driving a bus, teaching in a classroom, building a bridge are making less per hour now when you consider inflation. But those who take our money and bundle it and place it in some speculative fund and even if they lose it all, may get bailed out by the taxpayers, in time, that they still get a end of the year million dollar bonus. And then the Republican politicians demand that the workers work longer and cut their pensions because society cannot “afford” these costs. The High School student could easily conclude better to choose a career of crime with one of the top companies.

  4. avatar Mickey Kaus says:

    Cesar Chavez, whose views on illegal immigration were closer to Jan Brewer’s than to today’s Democrats …

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