Welcome to LaborFest 2016
Workers’ Survival, Resistance and Power
in the 21st Century
This year marks the 82nd anniversary of the San Francisco General Strike and West Coast Maritime Strike. The General Strike was not only a victory for the ILWU longshoreman but also for hundreds of thousands of workers who joined unions from hotel workers and clerical workers to public workers.
Today, unions and working people are under attack. Workers’ real incomes have been declining from wage freezes, outsourcing, deregulation and privatization during the past 30 years. The use of technology has not shortened our workweek but made more and more workers part time and temporary who do gig jobs to survive. Most workers cannot afford to live in San Francisco and many places in the Bay Area. They are being told to move to the Central Valley or other regions many miles from San Francisco.
This year is also the 130th anniversary of May Day, which commemorates the fight for the eight-hour day in Chicago. The reality for more and more working people is that they must work more than 8 hours to take care of their housing, healthcare costs and make it in Northern California. Labor’s fight for healthcare, free public education and housing continues, and LaborFest will host events looking at our history and the struggles today.
Minority workers also face growing repression and attacks in their communities and on the job. The development of Trump is a dangerous warning that racism, xenophobia and attacks on our brothers and sisters are a growing danger. Blaming immigrants and minorities for the economic crisis is not new and the labor movement, if it is to survive, must defend the democratic and labor rights of all workers regardless of race, religion, sexual orientation or national origin.
July 22nd is also the 100th anniversary of the Preparedness Day bombing on Market St. that killed ten people and was a pretext to frame-up two labor radicals, Tom Mooney and Warren K. Billings. This event was used to attack unions and all working people. After a struggle of decades, Mooney and Billings were finally released from prison, yet this incident is virtually unknown in San Francisco.
This year is also the 70th anniversary of the Oakland General Strike which was the last general strike in the United States, and LaborFest will have a walk and forum on the lessons today from that strike.
As in 1946 when that strike took place, workers were bullied, retaliated against and fired for wanting to have a union. We face the same fight today as tens of thousands of workers at Wal-Mart, McDonald’s and Whole Foods continue to be retaliated and punished for wanting a union that would allow them to collectively stand up for their rights.
LaborFest will also be recognizing the working people who built this city after the 1906 earthquake with a presentation by carpenter Bob Mattacola on the daily diary of carpenter George W. Farris, and an oral history of the workers who built the Golden Gate Bridge by Harvey Schwartz.
We will again have our annual LaborFest Maritime Boat Tour with our labor historians and music.
We will also commemorate the life of the late musican and writer Renee Gibbons, and the Easter Uprising, with a concert. The Easter Uprising was the struggle of the Irish people for independence, and James Connolly, a trade unionist and internationalist leader of the uprising, was one of its martyrs. It also is directly linked with the many Irish American workers in San Francisco.
The struggle for labor and human rights continues and LaborFest thanks all the unions, cultural workers, artists, and workers who have contributed to making it happen.
From The LaborFest Organizing Committee