For eighteen years, Labor Fest, an annual labor cultural arts festival, has commemorated the 1934 General Strike. This year’s Labor Fest, entitled, “Labor Fights Back From Egypt to Wisconsin and San Francisco” will also commemorate the 150th anniversary of the US civil war and the role of slavery in California, the 125th anniversary of May Day, and the 100th anniversary of the Triangle Fire In New York where 146 mostly immigrant Jewish and Italian garment workers perished in a fire.
The month long festival begins July 2nd and concludes on July 31st and will include the Film Works United Festival, theatrical and musical performances, a Book Fair and labor history cultural walks, and presentations. At a time when history, reality, labor is under constant attack from the corporate press, the stories and histories of struggle, resistance, the triumphs of collective actions, solidarity, the human spirit over injustice, tyranny and fascism deserve our attention. This festival has expanded to Japan, Korea, Argentina, Turkey internationally. This festival is also the largest labor cultural arts festival in the United States.
A founder of Labor Fest, Steve Zeltzer is also a founder of the Labor Video Project and has been producing labor video documentaries since 1983. Some of them such as “Halfway To Hell, The Workers and Unions That Built The Golden Gate Bridge” narrated by Danny Glover have been on PBS and KQED in San Francisco. He produces a bi-weekly show called “Labor On The Job” which is the longest running labor television show in the United States and has helped establish an bi-annual labor communication media conference called LaborTech. Steve Zeltzer’s films, television programs, events, and LaborFest bring to light the rich history of the labor movement, as well as the current struggles taking place between workers, people and giant corporations in collusion with government officials. The forty-four page program describing the calendar of this year’s events, films, theatrical performances, walking tours is an education in itself.
LaborFest was first established to commemorate the San Francisco general strike of 1934 which was a major turning point for working people, not only in San Francisco, but in the Bay Area, as multitudes joined unions for the first time in the midst of the Great Depression. California and the nation, again face high unemployment, coordinated attacks upon basic workers rights from collective bargaining, to health and safety regulations, pensions, Social Security, even child labor. The right to education is being threatened and workers scapegoated for the decline in the economy, while the rich amass staggering wealth, transferring debts off the books of speculators onto the taxpayers.
This year LaborFest will also honor the 125th anniversary of May Day, which began in Chicago in 1886 when 35,000 people walked off their job in a concerted effort for an eight hour work day. Under current conditions, workers are often working two to three jobs, in order to survive and support their families.
Globalization, militarization, technological innovations have greatly enhanced corporate power, threatening severe environmental and social destruction. The increased threat has forced and prompted new alliances between workers and people throughout the world, struggling for human rights, healthy food, air, water, shelter, livelihoods, futures for themselves and their children. The hard earned gains of centuries are under onslaught from a new form of feudalism.