All the classes center around the American labor movement’s first mission statement. At the end of the 1800s, Samuel Gompers, the first president of the American Federation of Labor was asked a straight forward question, "What does labor want?”
Gompers’ reply was both direct and reflected his understanding of the nation’s history. He replied, "What do we want? More schoolhouses and less jails; more books and less arsenals; more learning, less crime; more leisure, less greed; more justice, less revenge; in fact, more of the opportunities to cultivate our better natures."
In essence, the American labor movement wants to both level roads and remove roadblocks so that everyday wage earners have a fair shot at a piece of the American Dream. Gompers couched his response in terms of the values that labor supports and rejects.
Additionally, the William Brennan Institute for Labor Studies has been invited into MCC’s classes aimed at preparing its students for careers in the building and construction trades. The topic will be Labor History. It is the story of how organized labor has contributed to bringing meaningful democracy to the nation’s workplaces. It explores both the wish to adhere to the mission statement above and the resistance it faced along the way.
Why is that needed? Approximately 90 percent of the workforce are wage earners, who sell their intelligence and experience. Many know little to nothing about how the modern employer/employee relationship evolved and how the American labor movement played an important role in that history. These classes aim to examine how that relationship was humanized over time and to teach some of that missing history.
The Institute is just beginning this endeavor. It hopes to train other instructors so the effort can grow and become sustainable.
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