Kentucky Labor Institute
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    Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
    Did you know...that the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, first printed in 1903, is the oldest peer-reviewed publication dedicated to Kentucky history?Subscribe to the Register (only $40 per year).
    Action Center
    Register of the Kentucky Historical Society
    Did you know...that the Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, first printed in 1903, is the oldest peer-reviewed publication dedicated to Kentucky history?Subscribe to the Register (only $40 per year).
  • A Right to Work, But Not as Serfs
    Updated On: May 28, 2016

                          We All Have a Right to Work, But Not as Serfs

                                            joe brennan

                No one can give us a right to work, it is ours by our very being. What we need is the right to be respected as workers. Black Lives Never Mattered, not since the days of Jefferson, nor the lives of Latino field hands, nor those of white sharecroppers , nor women, nor Black Lung coal miners, nor low wage food workers. All  work,  but without rights and dignity as workers. They remain "those people".

                I remember visiting the homes of hungry migrant children, the Oklahoma dust covered segregated black homes that were denied proper sewerage by the city fathers. City officials feared neither God nor man, but only the Feds. The newspaper lamented integrating the pool "We had no alternative". Everyone had the right to work, but not as serfs, indentured servants of the powerful.

                I  lived in a basement apartment next to a dirty coal bin used to heat our apartment building. Life was bleak, but there was hope. My father became a police officer, and a union member. Suddenly he had rights and dignity. The union represented him, and us. We enjoyed a true freedom from serfdom.

                Today people promote a "right to work", while denying  workers their rights as workers. It all sounds well, but it only covers up the insidious lie that workers will have no rights. No rights to a job that supports their family, no rights to redress employers imposing unpaid work hours, no rights to a free voice through collective bargaining, or safe working conditions. Right to work is a right to work as a serf, be it white collar, blue collar, or no collar. What we need is a Bill that defends Workers' Rights. Without this workers will continue to be abused by well sounding politicians financed by moneyed interests. "Work harder for less", "Be  glad for what you got", "We can't make a profit without cheap labor".  BUT hungry children can't survive on $ 7.25. We need laws that will protect our "Traditional American Values", allows workers to choose to be free. Black Lives Matter, Latino lives matter, Workers' lives matter. It does matter that we have a Workers' Rights Bill.  


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