I have had the pleasure to be in the company of many labor and union organizers, historians and activists recently. Zygote is presenting an exhibition in November (timed perfectly for the election) to show work from three private collections of New Deal prints. These prints detail art that fights. I am looking forward to programming events around this exhibition to draw the rank and file from unions and engage the many workers from locals in our neighborhood.
It has been an eye opening experience and I find great connection and interest with their philosophies and campaigns- building awareness and organizing solidarity among workers. (Oddly, this interest has percolated at the same time as we connect and formulate the Collective Arts Network and my experience co-founding Zygote Press-so there are many cross-overs). Young working people don’t have a sense that they have a very optimistic looking future. There is an assumption that they are screwed (with no social security left for them, not doing better then their parents generation, incredible debt from student loans, the environment etc) and this leads to fatalism and an emphasis on individual isolationism. They have solidarity in their alienation. It is clear to me that real education needs to happen about labor history-about the working class. How the generations who preceded us striked, had sit ins, picketed and died for their rights to good wages, benefits and fair treatment.
I am finding that these Labor and Union folks are not crazy lefties or any more or less progressive thinkers that anyone else I hang out with…in fact they are teachers, postal workers, steel workers and tile layers. They are the most important people who have built this country from the ground up. These community interests, more then ever need to be emphasized to our kids. With big bank bail outs, lack of regulation, skyrocketing debt and a bleak forecasts ahead (especially with the unfolding European economies), it is more imperative then ever that we need to revise our connection to activism for the working class.