The Occupy Wall Street protests that began in New York City and are now spreading to dozens of other cities across the nation, including Sacramento, are heartening—not only for their underlying I’m-mad-as-hell-and-I’m-not-gonna-take-it-anymore sentiment, but because they represent the kernel of a grassroots mass-protest movement on the left, the likes of which has not been seen in this country for decades.
Filled with the idealism of youth, the Occupy Wall Street protesters are the latest incarnation in a line of progressive, populist voices that goes back at least to the union struggles of the 1930s and the Great Depression, but which have been silent for more than 30 years.
My grandparents and parents were part of the labor movement of the ’30s. In the anti-labor climate of today, it is largely forgotten that the eight-hour workday, the 40-hour workweek, the collective-bargaining rights and the paid vacations that we take for granted came about only as a result of organized labor’s relentless efforts, which included the blood—and even lives—of many striking workers. It is also generally overlooked that just 80 years ago there was no Social Security, no workers’ compensation, no child-labor laws, no minimum wage.
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