There’s something a little perverse about the anti-worker Republican Party commencing its quadrennial confab in St. Paul, Minnesota on Labor Day. Fortunately for all Minnesotans, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) is staging a far more appropriate celebration this Monday on Harriet Island, just across the Mississippi River from the Republican National Convention.
The Take Back Labor Day Festival aims to combine world-class music, programs on cutting-edge activism and family fun in an all-day gala to to celebrate workers’ historic achievements and to promote a new vision for the 21st century that includes affordable, quality healthcare for everyone; wages that can support families’; unfettered freedom to join unions without intimidation or sanction and true retirement security.
The core of the festival is a veritable who’s who of lefty musicians, all of whom are as distinguished as much by their musical accomplishments as by their enduring support for the rights of working people. The concert portion of the day runs from 3:00pm to 7:00 and features Billy Bragg, Tom Morello, Mos Def, Steve Earle, Allison Moorer and Pharcyde.
In addition to the concert, the festival will include single-issue activist tents, a YouTube station where festival-goers can record and upload video, a fully equipped blogger lounge, a large audience-participation art project and a children’s area with story-tellers, kid’s music, drum circles, giant hula hoops, jingle dancers, art activities, face painters, magicians, jugglers and balloon games.
As an extra Labor Day bonus, watch this video featuring Billy Bragg singing his classic, There is Power in a Union, along with an evocative clip roll celebrating US labor history.
Then, check out this clip of the great Pete Seeger leading a chorus through Solidarity Forever — the classic anthem of the US labor movement.
Finally, here’s a rare clip of the dearly departed, much-lamented genius of the American folk scene Phil Ochs performing his Ballad of Joe Hill, a history lesson in song detailing the life and death of the Swedish-American labor activist, songwriter, and member of the Industrial Workers of the World who was executed for murder after a controversial trial in 1915.