Let’s Drink to the American Worker

juke joint

Thursday is May 1st.  May Day and International Worker’s Day.  A celebration of working folks and the struggles they have endured over the generations.  The fight for fairness.  For equity.  For basic dignity.  For the freedom to be valued as humans just as much as the owning class.

I am obsessed these days with the role that the bar has held in the history of the labor movement.  The juke joints came up in the south during Reconstruction as places where black folks (still working as hard as they did as slaves with just about the same pay) could go and take refuge from their toils.

The pubs of England and Ireland and the like were essential meeting places for working men during the Industrial Revolution to discuss the politics that affected their lives and to organize themselves towards resistance.

Saloons all over American served new immigrants more than just beer and whiskey.  These were places they could go for camaraderie, information, and respect.

Working folks and drinking go together and always have.

Now, we are in desperate need of a new workers’ movement.  Having just watched the documentary Inequality for All featuring Robert Reich, I am fired up by what I’ve learned about the war that has been waged on working people and the middle class in America.

Towards the end of the film, Reich says:

“You gotta mobilize.  You gotta organize.  You gotta energize other people.  Politics is not out there.  It’s in here.”

He didn’t exactly say so but, by “in here,” I want to believe that he means the bar.  The pub.  The juke joint.  The places where regular working folks can go to get away from their bosses, grab a pint, and start a revolution.

You ready for it?  I’ll see you there.  Save me a stool.

About the Author


Social Entrepreneur. Writer/Blogger. Theater teaching artist. Amateur mixologist. Girl Advocate. Writer. Fost/adopt mama. Learner. Playful Idealist. Find me on Twitter @lynnjohnson.

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