May 02, 2007


Caption: Here are two bums.

(This week's posts are loosely connected. If this is your first visit, please consider clicking on the last two.)

El Cabrero has a soft spot for the Wobblies, a nickname for the Industrial Workers of the World, a radical branch of the labor movement that saw its best days between its founding in 1905 and the massive political repression that accompanied the First World War.

Their goal was to unite all workers, regardless of skill, race, sex, religion, or national origin, into One Big Union. They were also very clever in making use of funny and irreverent songs, poems, and signs (similar to modern bumper stickers) which they called silent agitators to get their message across.

They gave the labor movement some of its best songs, such as Solidarity Forever, which was inspired by a coal strike in El Cabrero’s beloved state of West Virginia, The Commonwealth of Toil, Bread and Roses, and The Preacher and the Slave.

One Wobbly poem called The Two Bums, is the most eloquent statement on social policy that I’ve ever found.

Then as now, people are all to ready and eager to blame all social problems on poor and working people and ignore the vast harm done to the vast majority by a wealthy and powerful minority of people who own and control most economic and political power.

Here it is:

The Two Bums

The bum on the rods is hunted down as an enemy of mankind
The other is driven around to his club, is feted, wined and dined.

And they who curse the bum on the rods as the essence of all that's bad
Will greet the other with a willing smile and extend a hand so glad.

The bum on the rods is a social flea who gets an occasional bite
The bum on the plush is a social leech, bloodsucking day and night.

The bum on the rods is a load so light that his weight we scarcely feel
But it takes the labour of dozens of folks to furnish the other a meal.

As long as we sanction the bum on the plush the other will always be there
But rid ourselves of the bum on the plush and the other will disappear.

Then make an intelligent organised kick get rid of the weights that crush
Don't worry about the bum on the rods get rid of the bum on the plush.

(Railroad trivia note: the "rods" referred to here are the rods underneath rail cars--not a very safe way to travel cross country.)

ON THE PLUSH. Our old friend Wal-Mart made the cover of the print version of Business Week again, but this item about its human rights record from the online version of the magazine is even more interesting. Here's the lead:

Human Rights Watch, a non-governmental group based in New York, is best known for scathing reports on political issues such as the Rwandan genocide and the Congo's use of children in its military. But late on Apr. 30, the human rights group focused on Wal-Mart (WMT), issuing a report that charged the giant retailer with using strong-arm tactics and, in some cases, illegal means to stop its workers from forming unions. In a 210-page report, the organization says "the retail giant stands out for the sheer magnitude and aggressiveness of its anti-union apparatus."

This is only the second time in the organization's 29-year history that it has issued a book-size report on a corporation. The first one was on Enron in 1999. The study's author, Carol Pier, says the group decided to focus on Wal-Mart because of its broad impact on labor practices and the U.S. economy. "Wal-Mart is the largest private employer in the world. Therefore, the way it treats its workers matters," says Pier, senior labor rights and trade researcher at Human Rights Watch. "Our message is that when the world's largest economy has labor laws that are so weak that it is unable to prevent the world's largest corporation from violating workers' rights to organize, it is troubling."

WV ITEM. We hear a lot of complaints in this state from conservatives about the drastic growth of state government. Last week, Antipode did some math and found that state spending actually declined over the last 25 years as a proportion of state GDP.



Mary Rayme said...

I love your blog ElCabrero and your pics. They are most excellent.

lifestyle said...

I think you got a great blog!! Thank you for that. I'm definitely going to add u to my favorite :)
I hope you can visit my blog at - MOH Loans and Banking

El Cabrero said...

Dear Mary Rayme and lifestyle,
Thanks for your comments! I'm glad you like the Goat Rope. I'll check the MOH blog too.