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Mon Dec 12, 2011, 01:08 PM

As Republicans Cheer Child Labor, They Should Reflect On My Grand Father's Life

My grandfather, Mike Tanari, taught me many things, fishing with a cane pole and bobber, how to plant a garden, and how to make do. To say he was frugal was an understatement. One snowy day he showed me how to catch rabbits by hand to save the cost of shotgun shells. He took four rabbits that day and never fired a shot. But most all he taught me his life story. It is the most important lesson he ever shared with me.

Born in 1899, he went to work at Ladd’s Whitebreast Coal mine in 1909 at the age of 10 ˝. He remembered the day the Cherry Mine burned. After finishing his 12 hour shift he could see the pall of smoke as it darkened the sky 3 miles to the north as he walked home. He said he was tired and all he could think about was the next day’s work.

Although he worked the mines for 36 years he never spoke much of those days. But one day I met a man that knew Grandpa from his work in the Marquette mine which was located on the bottom road between Depue and Spring Valley. I mentioned his name to Grandpa later that week at supper, and for the only time in his life did I see his face flush with anger. The man was the son of the mine boss at Marquette. Grandpa related that one spring day the waters of the Illinois River were nearing the top of the dike built around the shaft of the mine. Grandpa and the rest of the shift workers refused to enter the cage and descend for fear of being trapped and drowned below the surface. The mine boss addressed the milling miners and told them that any man that did not complete his shift would be fired and his name “blacklisted,” so that he could never work in another mine in Northern Illinois again. I asked Grandpa what he did. The anger left his face as he looked down at the dinner table and said in a soft voice, “Mike, I had a wife and two daughters to feed. Mining was the only thing I knew. We all went down. It was the longest day of my life.” Sixty years after the fact, he felt still the sting and the shame of that day. We never spoke of it again.

In later years Grandpa was the secretary of the Miner’s Local Labor Union. I still have the ledger books he kept. Every penny accounted for in careful pencil strokes. But those numbers tell little of the story of the men that pooled their resources to better the conditions in which they toiled. They reflect nothing of the sacrifice and loss that enriches our lives’ today. But they are invaluable to me. I would not part with them for any price.

Grandpa has been gone now for almost thirty years and yet there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of him. He was not a wistful dreamer that talked of the “good ole days.” He always thought our best days were in front of us and he was careful to remind me that I lived in the best of times. As Labor Day approaches I hope and pray the things he and countless others endured are not forsaken, and never forgotten.

mike kohr 9/2011
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Reply As Republicans Cheer Child Labor, They Should Reflect On My Grand Father's Life (Original post)
mikekohr Dec 2011 OP
rfranklin Dec 2011 #1
Brickbat Dec 2011 #2
Lindakimy Dec 2011 #3
mikekohr Dec 2011 #4

Response to mikekohr (Original post)

Mon Dec 12, 2011, 01:25 PM

1. That brought more than a tear to my eyes...unfortunately too many have forgotten these facts...


Given the power, this is what "conservatives" will do to their fellow Americans because they have no empathy (basically no humanity) and can only see their "needs" that supercede any sense of decency. The proof is in the Massey mine disaster most recently and the fat fucks who will send people down without a care for their welfare.

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Response to mikekohr (Original post)

Mon Dec 12, 2011, 02:26 PM

2. We're at the point where people can make their own stories of courage and hard work in an effort to

build a new society, rather than retelling the stories of their parents and grandparents. This is NOT a dig at the OP at all, but I think people should start thinking about why they say, "I am a labor supporter and come from a long line of union members" instead of "I am a union member." You see it every election when candidates' labor bona fides are those of their parents or grandparents, instead of themselves.

There is some difference, of course, between being told to go into a flooded mine and being told you can't work unless you submit to a credit check or hand over your Facebook password. On the other hand, as we are forced to move from a manufacturing economy to a service economy, this is how the oppression and intimidation will look, and people had better start pushing back sooner or later, and give our grandchildren something to speak of with pride.

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Response to Brickbat (Reply #2)

Mon Dec 12, 2011, 07:57 PM

3. There is a difference

Of course there is a difference between the union member and the person (like the OP or me) who remembers a family history of unionism. But I believe that those of us who remember our fathers, mothers, grandparents in unions have been profoundly affected by that. We are the ones who support unions from the outside. It isn't the same, of course, but our support is valuable. Our attitudes have been formed watching our fathers carry signs or tend wounds. We have lived out of "union boxes," something that I remember so well during long strikes. We view situations like the recent one in Wisconsin differently than those who have only heard of unions from a distance.

I am unaware of any union that covers my profession. We are independent as cats. We tend to work one or two in a company and, frankly, I can't imagine how to go about unionizing my field. That is my personal failure; I am sure a more forceful person could find a way. If there were a union I would join but that is a fairly empty gesture until the option arises. I would prefer to be a union member and I wish unions were far more widespread in this country. The fact is that unions in the US have suffered from injuries both external and internal. There have been huge problems within union leadership - another thing I remember from my father's union days. There have been leaders who were indistinguishable from the bosses...and worse. The anti-union sentiment in this country seems to grow more vicious daily and sometimes one must admit that there are reasons. Somehow unions in this country are often perceived as selfish - gaining advantage only for their own members without concern for other workers rather than as organizations standing for the rights of all wage earners. So many of the most virulently anti-union people I know ARE wage earners. They see unionized workers as extortionists who have somehow managed to force their employers to pay them more and provide more benefits. They see the unionized workers as competition, even enemies, rather than cheering the strength of collective action and the possibilities it should show all workers. I can't remember the last time unions in this country truly united across lines to stand in solidarity. Until that happens routinely I think those for unions and those against will not cut along the lines of workers and management.

While I agree that union sympathy is not the same as union membership it would seem that unions need all the help they can get. Rather than being exclusive - us versus them - I think it would be a good thing for unions to be as inclusive as possible and welcoming to any valid support they can find.

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Response to Lindakimy (Reply #3)

Tue Dec 13, 2011, 07:58 AM

4. +1,000,000

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