#315: Mayday

May 2nd, 2014

I spent International Workers Day at work, which was appropriate.

I followed it by a long train ride home, leaving at 7. A man wrapped in a blanket walked up a car saying, “Got any change? Got any change? Help me out?” absently, like he was just going through the motions.

Which was right.

I rode back down the Red Line with other tired-eyed workers, the train jolting each of us from almost-sleep at each stop. Granville. Thorndale. Bryn Mawr. Berwyn. Down through the nastier sections of the North Side, then through the frattier ones, then to the downtown where people mill by a McDonald’s.

That was accurate too.

It was International Workers Day. May Day. I’m sure people were celebrating, holding rallies by the site of the worker massacre that spurred the labor movement. Chicago’s the home of that, did you know?

But for most of us, Worker’s Day was a workday. Which is about right.

The rallied in Phnom Penh, Jakarta, Istanbul, in cities around the world. There were clashes with police in some cities. There was a disturbingly KGBish event in Moscow. Stock markets were closed in Asia and Europe.

And here, we work. American individualism: If you work to improve your lot, you’re a hero. If you work to improve your lot by improving everyone’s lot, you’re a commie.

I am a white collar white man bitching about work and, you know what? That’s perfectly fine. I don’t need to defend myself for wanting everyone’s lot to be fairer just because I’m not wandering up a train car begging in a blanket.

Communism is a crock of shit. I take unions on a case-by-case basis too, so I’m not exactly asking for a worker’s revolt here. I just think the invisible hand owes a lot of people a reacharound.

I want the workers at that McDonald’s to make in real dollars what they would have made 40 years ago. It’s gone down. A lot.

I want the tired-eyed workers to have been going home at 5, not 7.

I want that man walking up the train car going through the motions of begging, well, not be a man walking up a train car going through the motions of begging.

That’s what bothers me about May Day being so shunned in the country, the city that started it. We’re just miles from the Haymarket Massacre site, but it might as well have been any Thursday.

People fought to better our lot. And they’re forgotten in our shuffle to and from jobs they helped make livable.

Comment on this story

Some history on the Haymarket Massacre

Some stats on the declining real-dollar value of the minimum wage

Interviewing homeless on Michigan Avenue

I really don’t like communists

Capitalists ain’t great either

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