Jefferson Cowie: That ’70s FeelingRoundup: Historians' Take
Jefferson Cowie, an associate professor of labor history at Cornell, is the author of “Stayin’ Alive: The 1970s and the Last Days of the Working Class.”
TODAY we celebrate the American labor force, but this year’s working-class celebrity hero made his debut almost a month ago. Steven Slater, a flight attendant for JetBlue, ended his career by cursing at his passengers over the intercom and grabbing a couple of beers before sliding down the emergency-evacuation chute — and into popular history.
The press immediately drew parallels between Mr. Slater’s outburst and two iconic moments of 1970s popular culture: Howard Beale’s “I’m mad as hell” rant from the 1976 film “Network” and Johnny Paycheck’s 1977 anthem of alienation, “Take This Job and Shove It.”
But these are more than just parallels: those late ’70s events are part of the cultural foundation of our own time. Less expressions of rebellion than frustration, they mark the final days of a time when the working class actually mattered....
The overt class conflict of the late ’70s ended a while ago. Workers have learned to internalize and mask powerlessness, but the internal frustration and struggle remain. Any questions about quality of work life, the animating issue of 1970s unrest, have long since disappeared — despite the flat-lining of wages in the decades since. Today the concerns of the working class have less space in our civic imagination than at any time since the Industrial Revolution....
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John a Wilson - 9/6/2010
The UAW owns GM. What more do you want for the working class? Better pensions? The state of Illinois is going bankrupt from making ill advised concessions to the unions for their pension benefits.
Get used to the idea that a job is a privilege and not a right.
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