Discover more from Civil Discourse with Joyce Vance
Tonight, no politics
Stepping away for a day, especially for Labor Day, is good for our souls. My Great-Grandparents immigrated to this country around the turn of the last century. My Grandmother’s Dad was a tailor, and he and her Mother worked at first, sewing in factories, before they were able to leave New York City for upstate. We have always been a pro-Labor family.
Because of my family background, I’ve always focused on the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire, which I first learned about at summer camp. For some odd reason I can’t remember, we learned about the Labor movement one summer, perhaps we were singing songs from the movement and that led to it.
The fire took place in New York City in 1911, leaving 146 workers dead. People trying to escape the fire found exit doors locked and other measures to keep the workers at their jobs kept them from leaving the building as the fire burned. The owners and managers were investigated for manslaughter—murder is the intentional taking of a human life, manslaughter involves negligence or recklessness resulting in death—but were never indicted. They were sued civilly, ultimately paying $75 to each victim’s family, despite receiving $400 per death as compensation from their insurers.
The fire and its aftermath is one of many events, a key one, that helped to galvanize the Labor movement in this country. Without unions, workers would be largely unprotected from tragedies like the factory fire. We wouldn’t have OSHA, the federal agency that oversees occupational safety and health issues. Today, in addition to safety measures, unions negotiate, for higher wages, health insurance, vacation days, paid sick leave and retirement benefits.
In a poll last year, 71% of Americans approved of labor unions, the highest numbers since 1965. Support for Unions is a rare bipartisan issue, with 46% of Republicans favoring more unionization in their own workplaces. Democrats still favor unionization by about twice as much as their Republican counterparts do, but the reality is that far fewer Americans have the opportunity to join a union than would like to. Union membership stood at 14 million workers in 2021, representing roughly 10 percent of American workers, a decline from 20% in 1983. Something to ponder as this Labor Day comes to a close.
Rather than leaving on that somber note, I have some photos to share tonight, so you can get a glimpse of what’s going on here where I’m not writing Civil Discourse. We go back to school early—we’re already two weeks in at the Law School, so I’ve been spending a lot of time focused on my seminar class on prosecutorial discretion. It’s always great to get to work with a new group of students, and this semester is shaping up to be really exciting. Inevitably, I feel like I benefit so much from the students’ knowledge and energy and questions. It’s always wonderful to be back. I also knit more in the fall. This project below was inspired by my friend Mary Trump over at Backstory Serial. The lead characters in her Substack novel are all knitting this scarf together, and I had to join in.
This next picture is part of my basement studio set up for TV hits. You’re seeing my return feed here. Its base and my camera connections make me feel like I live with Doc Ock from Spiderman.
Bella is proud to report she “guarded” the chickens’ brunch spread Sunday morning. I only caught her with an apple in her mouth twice, so I think the chickens got a fair bit.
My pink Anemones are starting to bloom. They make me incredibly happy, which is lucky for them, because the plants are highly invasive and I spend a lot of time thinning them and trying to keep them from taking over. But oh, they’re lovely, aren’t they? It makes them worth the hassle.
The chickens and I have been spending our mornings visiting with friends, catching up on our reading, and getting some gardening chores done. I’m grateful for temperatures below 100`. Leeda, the laziest (but possibly the sweetest) of this year’s new batch of chicks has figured out that instead of scratching in the dirt like the other hardworking girls, she can perch on an old chair in the middle of the garden and eat some of the tender high up leaves, with minimal effort. Respect for that chicken!
I hope your weekend was lovely and relaxing.
We’re in this together,