For a second consecutive year on Labor Day Sunday, I had the privilege of delivering the sermon at my Unity Church in St. Paul (Unitarian Universalist). I focused on the the great tradition of progressive capitalism in Minnesota, embodied by people like William Drew Washburn, the founder of the forerunner of General Mills and the founder of the First Universalist Society of Minneapolis, and the subject of a new biography, "Prairie Ligthtning.'' Reviewing Washburn's enormous contributions and his serious shortcomings, I made this point:
Among the most eloquent and authentic Labor Day op-eds during the last week was Janice Thurn's excellent commentary ("America Can't Rise Without Its Workers")in the Star Tribune Op-Ed section, and this very clear and compelling answer to the question "What Does Organized Labor Want?", by AFSCME Council 5 Executive Director Eliot Seide.
There are a couple of key points in all this on Labor Day weekend, when we celebrate the vast majority of Americans and Minnesotans who labor for a living, and who mostly don’t OWN OR INVEST for a living, and with whose perspiration our civilizations have been built. The first point is a reminder, that some of our direct (Unitarian Universalist) intellectual and spiritual ancestors valued the “me’’ every bit as much or more than the “we.’’ They were intensely self-interested people, empire builders and capitalists, who also tried to balance that side with a conscience and recognition that public stuff, the things we do together for our common good with our democratic governments, were every bit as valuable as the things we do for ourselves for own profit and enrichment. Elites like the Washburns and Pillsburys and the Daytons passionately and personally invested in public interest, and as the decades wore on Minnesota’s capitalists earned a reputation as among the world’s most generous and enlightened, unafraid of social experimentation and democracy, generally supportive of the idea of public-sector growth and intelligent and humane distribution of an often unfair redistribution imposed by capitalism and the marketplace, on the sound theory that more sharing would be good for private-sector growth in the long run.
It will take a few days to process my latest Unity Church sermon so that it's available online, but here is a link to "She Works Hard for the Money (So You'd Better Treat her Right)", the Labor Day sermon I gave last year, focused in particular on the struggle for justice by women workers.