Have you ever been to the Park City Museum in Utah? I make it a point to go there every time we take our annual family ski vacation. The museum is housed in the old City Hall, which also housed the Police Department, the Fire Department, and the Territorial Jail. A few years ago, the museum underwent a major renovation that is very modern in its scope and professionalism.
Yet, I miss the old museum, where one could walk down rickety wooden stairs and enter the gloomy cell where the sheriff jailed members of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), or Wobblies. The members of this socialist labor movement used a candle to draw the IWW logo on the wall of their prison. The logo is still there, but now it is behind a plexiglass square, which is also behind a plexiglass partition in a well-lighted room. The exhibit has been contextualized with an audio-visual presentation. The museum’s website describes the city’s labor history as “controversial.”
For me, a tour of the museum and a walk around Park City is a reminder of the importance of organized labor. The new exhibits successfully display the terrible conditions that workers faced as they literally dug and blasted money out of the ground for miserable wages. Life and limb are not figures of speech for miners, and before organization, workers often suffered terribly as they died from lack of medical care. On my way from the museum, I often find myself reflecting upon the importance of the labor movement as I stroll past the Miner’s Hospital on Park Avenue.
The hospital resulted from the efforts of the Western Federation of Miners Union #144. No longer would miners bleed to death on the long trip to Salt Lake City. Instead, miners received medical care from qualified doctors and nurses in a modern operating facility and recuperated in sunny hospital rooms. This historic facility always reminds me of the importance of America’s vast middle class, which cannot exist without decent jobs and good working conditions.
The violence and militancy of the Wobblies never stood a chance in America, particularly with the outbreak of World War I. Instead, shop-floor organizing for better wages, humane conditions, and a beautiful little hospital won the day. It also provided the industrial might needed to win two world wars and stave off international communism. I see nothing controversial about that. Instead, it is a cause for celebration.
Happy Labor Day from all of us at Treasure Coast Financial Planning.