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Labor Day, Louisville, Colorado. September 6, 2021

September 6, 2021

Teamster’ Union participants in Louisville Colorado Labor Day Parade. September 6, 2021

Nancy, David Fey and I went to the Labor Day Parade in Louisville today. Nancy and I had gone before about ten years ago, when she was active in the state employees union, Colorado WINS. Before that we attended many a Labor Day Parade in Denver but these have stopped and Labor Day in Denver – like so many other progressive holidays doesn’t exist anymore. All that remains is an annual “pig out” where people stuff their faces with overpriced food, and buy crap they don’t need. Whether it’s Labor Day, the People’s Fair – which really used to be a “people’s fair”, Cinco de Mayo – all have been coopted, commercialized stripped of their historical and radical content and made into yet another toothless commercial venture – buy and sell.

The Louisville Labor Day Parade is the vestigial parade that retains a modicum – actually a rather shrunken modicum – of the old, more militant celebration where Colorado labor struts its stuff to remind the state’s residences that this the state of the Sand Creek Massacre, the Ludlow Massacre and the Coors Boycott. And the Louisville area – well the Louisville-Lafayette-Erie area a bit north and west of Denver itself was the site of some of the meanest labor struggles in the early 20th century with full scale armed confrontation between company goons and the State Militia on the one hand and striking miners on the other. Before Louis Tikas, Greek organizer for the miners was murdered by the State Militia at Ludlow, his head blown off at point blank range, Tikas had worked these northern coal fields, organizing miners into the Unted Mineworkers Federation as he would further south along the Front Range north of Trinidad.

So Louisville has its labor history and the children and grand children of those miners who fought for their rights, some dying, still live in the area and come out to celebrate their ancestors on Labor Day.

Still, although we were pleased to find a Labor Day Parade somewhere in the state, and we did enjoy it, this year’s Louisville march wasn’t the same. Gentrification has taken its toll, not just on Denver and Boulder where its impact is more noticable but also on smaller towns like Louisville and Lafayette. In the past the march started on the northside of the Main Street and marched south through the center if town. Main Street has been turned into a walking-shopping mall and is closed off to cars… and parades. As we were temporarily disoriented by the venue change I started asking people in the downtown  center where the parade was starting from. A half dozen or so people had not the slightest idea even that there was a parade, no less what route it would follow. Finally a couple who described themselves as “old timers” pointed up in the right direction. The only remnant of the town’s history of class struggle on Main Street is a statue to its miners., seemingly ignored by Louisville’s newcomers.

The march itself started on the west side of town and marched down Pine St. towards the center, but never leaving the western suburb.

Tribute to Louisville’s history as a mining center

In many ways it was a nice parade, tame – too tame – in comparison with past Labor Day events, but still…

Hundreds, maybe more, turned up to watch it along the route. It included delegations of a couple of high schools with their marching bands, a number of political hopefuls. U.S. Congressman Joe Neguse marched with his wife and daughter, the Daughter of the American Revolution were cancelled out (in our book) by a delegation of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), that included long-time democratic socialist and journalist, Dave Andeson. A bunch of realtors, never known to pass up a chance to advertise their ware along with a local church, the float of which included someone who looked like Mr. Rogers, also made their appearance as did three fleets of old cars, Thunderbirds, Cadillacs and some shiny cars and pick up trucks from the 1930s, 40s, Many of the paraders threw candy and ice cream to the kids (and one 76 year old unnamed adult).

But few unions showed and participated. The IBEW, Teamsters and Iron Workers all marched with their banners but there was not a trace of the miners whose spirits hover over Louisville, Unions that participated a decade ago when Nancy and I last participated – the AFT, Colorado WINS (the state employee’s union), ASCME, and many others, were nowhere to be seen. Besides, rather than leading the parade, the unions were placed at the very end, which we found degrading. Nor was there any militancy – other than from the Teamster float pictured above, no speeches reminding the participants of labor’s struggles, its sacrifices, why it is that Americans have an eight hour work day with two days off for the weekend.

Labor Day itself, as a social media friend of mine noted was instituted to peel off Labor-USA from May Day, with its more radical significance. And now Labor Day is being gutted, coopted, although not quite in Louisville. Although we wondered on the way home, what it meant to all those young families in attendance. Wsa it just another parade or something special, a reminder, that we just didn’t “get here”, that there is no such thing as “self-made” men and women., and that we are – as the commonly repeated expression puts it – “standing on the shoulders of those who came before” – amidst their blood, sweat and tears. Maybe the participants got it, maybe not.

Labor Day. Denver, Colorado. 1979. A very different feel from today.

One Comment leave one →
  1. margy stewart permalink
    September 7, 2021 12:03 pm

    Very interesting commentary!

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