On this day in labor history, the year was 1937.

That was the day workers of UAW Local 14 walked out on strike against the Toledo Chevrolet Transmission Plant.

They joined the strike wave against GM.

The national campaign started in November in Atlanta, followed by auto strikes in Kansas City and Cleveland, then intensified in late December with the Great Flint Sit-Down.

Local 14 members had experienced GM’s tricks first-hand during a 1935 strike.

When GM couldn’t stop unionization efforts at the Toledo plant, they began moving the machinery to non-union facilities in nearby Saginaw, Michigan and Muncie, Indiana.

GM’s maneuver drove local 14 leaders to fight for a national agreement and help with organizing the national strike wave.

Once it began, they were able to effectively shut down their plant.

They routinely traveled to Flint during the sit-down, to help with strike support and soup kitchen efforts.

Many local 14 members would also help beat back the police assault on sit-down strikers in the coming Battle of Running Bulls at Flint.

And as Local 14 members walked out on strike at the Chevy plant that day, the UAW presented its eight demands to GM.

These included national collective bargaining rights,

the end to piecework pay systems,

the 30 hour week, 6 hour day,

time and a half for overtime,

a living wage,

reinstatement of discharged workers,

the establishment of seniority rights,

recognition of the UAW as sole bargaining agent,

and shared determination of production speed in all plants.

GM finally started to budge a month later.

This historic agreement would be signed in late March and set the standard in industries across the country as millions of workers sought to unionize.


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Sifting through the settled dust of the Virginia elections and the mind-numbing postmortem shouting from every wannabe pundit with a Twitter account, I can’t help but feel as if those of us on the left can be counted on to consistently and sometimes acrobatically miss the point. Rather than working within the confines of what the data tells us about any given public argument, left leaning voices tend to speak to a created world that operates “as it should” rather than a real world that operates as it does. This is why, even with months to counter the GOP created panic over Critical Race Theory, Democrats simply stood on the tracks and let the train roll right over them, then blamed the usual suspects afterward. And this twirling mass of ineptitude is at its most obvious and most self-serving when we encounter this dead horse of a sentence: Democrats are bad at “messaging.”

This old trope is as certain a thing as there is in American political discussion, as certain as the right foaming about socialism or the NRA showing up on the third day after a mass shooting to tell us about “good guys with guns.” But much like many other simple and knowable facts, like we are not on a slippery slope toward communism, and AR-15s do not make anyone safer, we also know that the “Dems messaging problem” stuff is simply nonsense. The real problem is what it has been for about the last 40 years, a lack of access. We can’t reach people who are not in the room to be reached, and right-wing media has successfully placed half of the electorate in their own personal media silos.

Put simply, Dems make cogent, reasonable arguments that would work if only anyone persuadable were present to hear them. To be clear, it is not that no one listens to these arguments. Many do. The problem is that this communication happens almost entirely outside the silo. The people hearing the message already believe it, and those who don’t can’t be found. Even tired old cliches like “preaching to the choir” do not accurately describe just how much the left-leaning media environment has become a self-serving feedback loop. It sounds good, but it does very little work beyond giving Democrats a platform to impress each other and turn pretty words into better and more profitable gigs.

On the right, however, this is not the case. Sure, the GOP and its corporate money have created a mighty media juggernaut; this is not new information. But what many don’t understand is that the right not only controls its own media empire, but it also controls those who try (honestly or not) to compete with their noise. Evidence of this is everywhere. For example, on a Monday morning a short time ago, an op-ed appeared in the Washington Post. It called on Joe Biden to “respect” Trump’s executive privilege and not force Mark Meadows – Trump’s former chief of staff – to testify before the January 6 commission. The piece was written by one of the lawyers representing Meadows, yet no one seemed to think this was a conflict-of-interest worthy of a little scrutiny, so the liberal bastion of journalistic fairness ran the piece, and the right-wing media machine pitched its tent right in its opposition’s backyard.

Even on Twitter, which is probably about a D+40 environment, a new attack trends every day. A few days ago, it was #RacistJoeBiden, and shortly after they trended one of their favorite bits of projection as the term “pedo” became a national thing for a day. Tomorrow it will be something equally nonsensical, but it will trend anyway, because the right-wing machine controls it all.

The left defends itself, sometimes well and sometimes not, but it always and only defends. There is no offensive game in progressive media. None whatsoever. If there were, then right wing space would occasionally have left leaning voices present, losing often but sometimes winning and always at least arguing. But this does not happen, and the mere thought of it is almost laughable. The right chooses the ground for every fight, and exists in every competitive space, while at the same time walling off its own territory entirely and without even a hint of a challenge from anyone on the left, or the center for that matter. This has been the case for well over 40 years, beginning with the complete domination of the radio waves, and growing from there. The left now competes with entire generations who grew up on propaganda, and while the propagandists are to blame, so are those who surrendered their lunch money to right-wing bullies half a century ago, and who have made no real attempt to get it back.

So, when Democrats tried to tell well-meaning Virginians that they were being lied to about critical race theory, and that Youngkin is so much more like Trump than he pretends (which he certainly is), it had no effect. When the train of high-profile Democrats, Obama included, came to town to help, it had no effect. Democrats lost the 2021 Virginia Governor’s race over 40 years ago, when they chose to stop competing for anyone who didn’t already agree with them. This is why, when 2022 arrives, the result will be the same. And when that dust settles, and the bloodbath is fully realized, pundits and wannabe influencers will moan and quake about “messaging problems” without ever realizing that literally no one who needs to hear the message is listening.

They’re not even in the room.


Brett Pransky is a writer, an English professor, and the Executive Producer of The Rick Smith Show. When not in the classroom, Brett uses his graduate degrees in Rhetoric and Business to help people understand the dangers associated with increasing corporate control over the levers of government and how to confront the deception used by those who profit from that control. Brett calls Columbus, Ohio home, and he hates writing about himself in the third person.

On this day in Labor History the year was 1982.

That was the day that eleven women graduated from the New York City Fire Academy.

They were the first women firefighters ever to serve in the city of New York since the department was founded in 1865.

The inclusion of women firefighters did not come easily to New York.

In 1977 for the first-time women were allowed to apply to be firefighters.

Although many women had passed the written part of the exam they were continually denied employment because all failed the physical test.

The women sued citing discrimination.

One of the leaders of the suit was applicant Brenda Berman.

The Federal District Court in Brooklyn sided with the women.

Not everyone was happy about the decision.

A group of demonstrators came to City Hall before the graduation, with signs reading “I want to be save by Firemen.”

The Uniformed Firefighters Association challenged the ruling.

They tried to block the ceremony in the courts, arguing that training requirement had been changed to accommodate the women.

Despite the legal challenges the ceremony went on as scheduled.

In his speech Mayor Ed Koch said, “As all of us have known all along, bravery and valor know no sex.”

After the graduation, the controversy over women firefighters continued.

The women often faced sexual harassment on the job, and vilification on the editorial pages of city newspapers.

Bumper stickers reading “Don’t send a girl to do a man’s job” could be seen on the car bumpers of many male firefighters and at the city firehouses.

The women firefighters stood up to the harassment, testifying before the City Council and holding street demonstrations to bring awareness to their plight.


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While I hate to be the bringer of bad news at a time when people are finally beginning to secure a few wins in the workplace, we need to talk about what’s coming, about how working people are about to be on the receiving end of yet another attack from corporate power and the elite politicians they own.

While October has been renamed #Striketober due to the increasing number of labor actions going on across the country, and the coverage of those actions has been fairly positive, this trend simply can’t continue, and there are a number of very simple reasons why.

The legislative response to the strikes is a key indicator here. In the video below, Rick talks about two proposals meant to “address” the shortage of labor not by addressing the real shortage (which is in substandard wages & conditions) but by attacking worker safety and finding new ways to exploit the working class. One bill calls for a lowering of the minimum age for CDL drivers from 21 to 18, and the other intends to make it legal for children as young 14 to work until 11pm at night. Both will harm worker safety, and very likely drop wages as well.

To batter an overused cliche’, these proposals are the canary in the coal mine, and they signal the coming turn in how the fight for better wages, hours, and conditions is presented to the American people. This is not a prediction. It is a certainty.


Rick: “If we do hit an era, a period of of high, inflation, I can see it coming – and mark it on your calendar that I said it today – this is going to turn around and be blamed on all of the striking workers who are demanding better wages hours and conditions.

This is going to be put on all the people who marched out of jobs and said ‘No, we’re not working in this service industry for crummy wages. We’re not working without health security or retirement security. We demand better for ourselves and for our fellow workers.”

I guarantee you that the message will be ‘Well see – they got what they wanted. They wanted higher wages and they got higher wages and it ends up costing you – you the consumer … end up costing you more.’

I can see this coming as clear as day.”


As I said before, this is a certainty, one of several, actually. When it happens, the language used will be exactly what it always is. The words used to describe working people will be “them” and the words used to describe the corporate marks will be “you” and even though “you” and “them” are economically identical members of the same team, the corporate wedge will try to divide us. And this division will come from everywhere, including the more trusted media sources. After all, every single one of them is owned by the same people who have been dragging down wages for 50 years, and fairness and objectivity left journalism a long time ago.

And if history tells us anything on this subject, it tells us that corporate power wins this fight every single time. But unlike the certainties mentioned above, this outcome has not yet happened this time around, so we can still choose to stick together and support working people through the attacks that we all know are coming.

I’m not saying we will, because I don’t believe we will. But we could, we should, and I choose to believe that people can still surprise me.


Brett Pransky is a writer, an English professor, and the Executive Producer of The Rick Smith Show. When not in the classroom, Brett uses his graduate degrees in Rhetoric and Business to help people understand the dangers associated with increasing corporate control over the levers of government and how to confront the deception used by those who profit from that control. Brett calls Columbus, Ohio home, and he hates writing about himself in the third person.

On this day in Labor History the year was 1926.

That was the day that one of the great labor leaders in U.S. history, Eugene V. Debs, died in Elmhurst, Illinois.

In 1894, Debs gained national attention when his American Railway Union launched a boycott in support of the striking workers of Pullman Palace Car Company.

The strike and the boycott were crushed by federal troops and a federal court.

Debs served six months in jail for his role in the boycott.

Later Debs again would go to jail for standing up for his beliefs.

He was convicted for speaking out against U.S. involvement in World War I.

He was among the founders of the Industrial Workers of the World in 1905.

He ran as a Socialist for President of the United States five times, receiving nearly a million votes running his campaign from a prison cell in 1920.

In 1891 Debs wrote an article for the Locomotive Firemen’s Magazine titled “The Unity of Labor”

His words stand as an eloquent case for worker solidarity.

Debs wrote, “If workingmen were united in sympathetic bonds…if a bricklayer could comprehend the fact that he is dependent on the hod carrier;

if the locomotive engineer could grasp the fact that he is dependent on the locomotive fireman…

the interdependence of labor would at once constitute a bond of union, a chain whose links, forged and fashioned to hold workingmen in harmonious alliance, would girt them with a defense in every time of trouble and resist invasion, though assailed by all the plutocrats that ever cursed the earth.”

Debs spent his life trying to bring about this “harmonious alliance” of working people, and standing up for the causes of peace and justice.


Want more #RickShow? Go to https://www.thericksmithshow.com

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The Rick Smith Show streams live every weeknight from 9p-11p EST on YouTube, and you can catch up on what you miss twice a week on Free Speech TV:

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Saturday night @ 6pm EST

Be sure to add the FSTV channel on Apple TV or Roku or find us in the regular channel lineup on DirecTV or Dish.

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You can even find us on Sundays on the west coast on KPFK 90.7fm in Los Angeles @ 2pm EST, 11am PST. Listen live here: https://www.kpfk.org

Questions or comments? Email [email protected]

On this day in Labor History the year was 1919.

That was the day that began the Elaine Massacre.

The massacre took place in Arkansas, where more than 100 black farmers and sharecroppers were gunned down for daring to organize their labor.

The Year before, a black farmer by the name of Robert L. Hill had founded the Progressive Farmers and Household Union of America.

Union members pooled their money to purchase land.

They also hired a lawyer to sue planters who did not give black tenant cotton farmers their fair share of the profits.

The group grew in membership in the Arkansas delta region, including near the town of Elaine in Philips County.

But white landowners would not allow this challenge to their power.

Armed white militias came to a church where the union was holding a meeting.

The black attendees were also armed.

Gunfire broke out.

In response, white posses and federal troops unleashed a wave of terror across Philips County.

Hundreds of black residents were arrested.

At least 100 black Arkansans were killed.

Some estimates of those murdered is considerably higher.

Five white people also died.

122 black men and women were charged with murder.

Twelve were given the death sentence.

No white vigilante was ever charged.

The convicted African Americans appealed their cases.

One appeal for six of the defendants went all the way to the US Supreme Court, where it was overturned in a landmark ruling.

The year of 1919 was one of the deadliest years of violence against African Americans in U.S. history.

Civil Rights activist James Weldon Johnson called those bloody months the “Red Summer.”

Twenty-six race riots left thousands of African Americans homeless and hundreds dead from Chicago to Washington D.C. to Omaha.


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In a recent episode of The Rick Smith Show, we had the pleasure of speaking with author Jason Stanford about a book he recently co-authored called “Forget the Alamo.” It’s an examination of the actual events that occurred there, and also of the mythology that replaced those events in our history books, and how this appetite for replacing history with creative story-telling has a great deal to do with teaching us how to be lied to, and hiding from us why the powerful need us to accept those lies.

Rick: “I just want truth. I just want my kids to get be presented with what actually happened and and give them the tools to critically examine, think about and come to some conclusions on all sides good bad and different. Isn’t that what education should be about?”

Jason: “Well that’s what societies are supposed to be about. We’re supposed to evolve in our understanding of ourselves and we get smarter as we go on. A couple hundred years ago long division was taught at Yale. We get smarter as we go on – as a people not just individually – but because we learn from each other. And if we have politicians enforcing a a primitive and false understanding of our own history, we don’t evolve. That’s what happened in the soviet union where now they’re just willing to believe anything. When I lived there in ’92-’93 Russians had paintings of UFOs on the wall. They believed anything in Russia because they’d been lied to for so long. […] This kind of thing trains a people, an entire society to be lied to and that’s well that explains Texas about as well as anything.”

The conversation reminded us very much of another historian who visited the show recently, Dr. Hassan Kwame Jeffries of The Ohio State University. Dr Jeffries’ recent TED talk on “Confronting Hard History” has become an important part of this discussion on how history can be and often is hijacked and then misused as a tool to reinforce the status quo rather than a tool we use to grow as a people. As Dr. Jeffries puts it:

Dr. Jeffries: “Literary performer and educator Reggie Gibson had the truth of it when he said that our problem as Americans is we actually hate history. What we love is nostalgia. We love stories about the past that make us feel comfortable about the present.”

All over America, we see a massive movement away from expertise and intellectualism and toward superstition, fear, and mistrust. This movement can be called many things, like frightening and hateful, but at its core, it is un-American, targeted, and it is certainly intentional. It is a scalpel being used brilliantly to carve up the working class and pit us against each other. How do I know?

Because I am an expert in persuasion, and if I needed to cripple the largest multi-cultural coalition in America (for that is what the working class majority is), and I had an unlimited budget (as the right-wing media machine does) this is precisely how I would get the job done.


Brett Pransky is a writer, an English professor, and the Executive Producer of The Rick Smith Show. When not in the classroom, Brett uses his graduate degrees in Rhetoric and Business to help people understand the dangers associated with increasing corporate control over the levers of government and how to confront the deception used by those who profit from that control.

 

On this day in Labor History the year was 1985.

That was the year that the first Farm Aid concert was held in Champaign, Illinois.

A retrospective article in Time magazine reported, “In the 1980s, American farmers were hit hard by what were, at the time, the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression.  Droughts ravaged the fields, property values plunged, loan interest rates soared, thousands were forced off their land and faced foreclosure and bankruptcy.”

Farmer suicides rose at alarming rates.

The idea to use music to aid the farmers began with Bob Dylan at an event to help African famine victims.

Then, musicians Willie Nelson, John Mellencamp, and Neil Young took up his idea and ran with it.

Fifty musicians took the stage at the University of Illinois football stadium.

The organizers were joined by such headliners as Bob Dylan, Johnny Cash, Billy Joel, Tom Petty, Roy Orbison, Bonnie Raitt, Kenny Rogers, Joni Mitchel, the Beach Boys, Jimmy Buffet, Bon Jovi, Foreigner, and more.

The musicians played for fourteen hours to a rain-soaked crowd of nearly 80,000.

A telethon also helped to bring in donations.

It raised $9 million for farm relief.

More importantly it helped raise national awareness of the dire economic conditions faced by many small farmers.

Farm Aid has continued to hold concerts for small farmers.

In 2015 the thirtieth anniversary concert was held in Chicago.

As an organization Farm Aid has raised more than $50 million for small farmers.


The #RickShow​ is available everywhere. Check your radio dial or your favorite podcast app, and if you want to catch the TV show, find us on:

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Social Security has become an indispensable part of the American social safety net, but it’s also something we often take for granted. Listen to Rick Smith tell the story of the day President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed Social Security into law, and what it has meant to Americans ever since.


On this day in Labor History the year was 1936.

That was the day that President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law.

The act was a key piece of the President’s “New Deal” a series of federal programs responding to the ravages of the Great Depression.

Social Security would provide an income for retirees and the disabled, to ensure they did no slide into complete destitution.

On signing the bill, President Roosevelt, known for delivering memorable speeches, addressed the press.

He said, “Today, the hope of many years’ standing in large part fulfilled.  The civilization of the past hundred years, with its startling industrial changes, had tended more and more to make life insecure.  Young people have come to wonder what will their lot when they come to old age.  The man with a job has wondered how long that job will last.  This Social Security measure gives at least some protection to 50 million of our citizens who will reap direct benefits through unemployment compensation, through old age pensions, and through increased services for the protection of children and the prevention of ill health.”

He went on to say, “The law will flatten out the peaks and valleys of deflation and inflation. It is, in short, a law that will care of human needs and at the same time provide the United States an economic structure of vastly greater soundness.”

Over the past few decades, politicians, have increasingly sounded the alarm that Social Security will not remain viable as the large baby boomer generation retires and draws benefits.

Yet despite those who seek to attack Social Security, it remains a bedrock of the social safety net for millions of Americans.


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Click the play button to hear Rick Smith discuss “The Silent Parade” – a part of our history that you won’t find in many textbooks.


On this day in labor history, the year was 1917.

That was the day more than 10,000 African-Americans marched down New York City’s 5th Avenue in what is known as the Silent Parade.

The protest came in the aftermath of the July 2, East St. Louis race riot and a number of lynchings in Texas.

Organized by black scholar and activist W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson and the NAACP, the Silent Parade protested lynching and anti-black violence.

Children led the march, dressed in white.

Women, who were also dressed in white, followed them. Men dressed in dark suits, marched behind. It was considered the first major public protest of racial violence in the United States.

Alexis Newman describes the scene as the parade proceeded to Madison Square.

“The marchers carried banners and posters stating their reasons for the march. Both participants and onlookers remarked that this protest was unlike any other seen in the city and the nation. There were no chants, no songs, just silence.”

Some signs read, “Mother, Do Lynchers Go To Heaven?” and “Mr. President, Why Not Make America Safe For Democracy?”

Protesters hoped President Woodrow Wilson would make good on his election promises to promote rights for blacks.

But Wilson took no action. In fact, he opposed anti-lynching legislation and continued segregationist policies in federal offices.

In an editorial for The New York Age, James Weldon Johnson pointed out, “that their brothers and sisters, people just like them, were “Jim-Crowed” and segregated and disfranchised and oppressed and lynched and burned alive in this the greatest republic in the world, the great leader in the fight for democracy and humanity.”


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