Some of us, but clearly not enough of us, have enjoyed a four-day work week this week. Labor Day gives us a needed breather: a chance to enjoy family on a last summer weekend; a chance to gear up for the final four months of the year.
However, the people who need Labor Day the most are often the ones who are denied this day of rest. Restaurant, retail, utility, health care workers – and many more just do not catch a break.
Labor Day as a National Holiday has taken a back seat to the needs of commerce so many times. This loss for workers also has become the case for Thanksgiving and Independence Day.
There is irony in “labor” losing the right to enjoy their own special, century-old holiday. Have we lost the spirit of Labor Day? Is there a way to get it back?
Well, go ask your mother – Mother Jones, to be exact. Mother Jones is a beloved woman who worked for labor rights as (God forbid) a community organizer, activist and co-founder of the Industrial Workers of the World.
Born in Cork, Ireland, as Mary Harris Jones in 1837, she came to America and eventually became a dedicated fighter and fierce orator for workers rights.
Workers Education Society
One way to find Mary Harris Jones is at the Workers Education Society’s exhibit at 2929 S. Jefferson Ave. in St. Louis. A new display includes posters, a large paper cutout of the iconic labor activist, and a 24-minute video about her work and many accomplishments.
Jones is heralded in the 2003 book, “Kids on Strike,” for her work organizing the March of the Mill Children. Jones advocated for young girls in the Pennsylvania silk mills – girls who were exploited, robbed and “de-moralized,” according to Mother Jones.
Tours of the St. Louis exhibit can be made by contacting Workers Education Society President Tony Pecinovsky at tony@ workerseducationsociety.org.
Mt. Olive Museum
Another way to find the late, great Mary Harris Jones is to visit the Mother Jones Museum in Mt. Olive, Illinois. Mt. Olive boasts the burial site of Mother Jones and graves of “her boys,” the miners killed in bloody disputes between coal mine operators and workers.
Mother Jones in Heaven
Yet another way to find the late, great Mary Harris Jones is to see the one-woman play, “Mother Jones in Heaven.”
Vivian Nesbit (Breaking Bad), who shares the Irish ancestry of Mother Jones, plays her hero in productions around the country. Plans are for the show to soon air on Fringe streaming.
In a review and story on an Asheville, North Carolina production of “Mother Jones in Heaven,” Nesbit said: “She just burns with passion ... to bring her to the stage is a really interesting and terrifying thing to do. There’s plenty to be angry and militant about.”