Wednesday, May 1, 2013

May Day Pause: James Larkin and Worker's Rights...

The Tour de France, you may know, is no stranger to social / political intrigue. Few events in the world provide a ready stage for people to air their grievances in the name of one cause or another. Farmers and laborers have held up the progress of the race on numerous occasions in the past while protesting wages, working conditions, et al. Indeed, the racers have done the same themselves. And so, with the cycling reference out of the way...

Once a year, or so, I take a pause from this cycling thing and get political. Today, May Day, is that day. The year 2013 marks the 100th anniversary of the Dublin Lockout. Led by Irish labor leader, Big Jim Larkin, the strike was ostensibly a dispute over the right of workers to organize. As with most of these labor conflicts though, there existed a more tangible grievance - the great disparity between worker and owner, wealthy and poor - and was summed up in a slogan coined by Larkin, "a fair day's work, for a fair day's pay."


Twenty-three years ago, during my first trip to Ireland, I snapped this photo of the statue dedicated to Big Jim Larkin. Located on O'Connell Street , the city's main thoroughfare, and with arms upraised in an impassioned display, its prominence reflects the importance and meaning behind Larkin's actions, his call for equality, justice, and workers rights.

How far have things progressed from Larkin's day: "In 2010 John Paulson led the list [of top hedge fund managers] with a record $4.9 billion in personal earnings. That's a whopping $2.4 million an HOUR. Here's a factoid to make you wretch: It would take the median US household over 47 years to earn as much as Paulson pocketed in just 60 minutes." The further we seem to progress, the further we fall behind.

Larkin, and his accomplishments, are remembered today in numerous books and songs, including this one by Black 47 (music video). I also like this one by the Davitts for the great collection of images it contains.

The usual 1st of the month From the Archives will return tomorrow with a special montage of bikes in Ireland from 23 year ago.

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