"The Labor Movement: the folks who brought you the weekend" will most likely be a common bumper-sticker sighting at any of the myriad events at this weekend's LaborFest. For the 10th annual "Cultural Celebration of the 1934 General Strike," organizers have taken on the motto "A War on All Fronts" -- a solemn reminder that as battles in Iraq continue to rage, so do the attacks on education budgets, heath care programs, and employment opportunities here in the U.S. Despite its serious tone, though, the slogan brings to mind a joke made by one of the only truly funny labor activists ever to walk this earth: Jessica Mitford. In her famous pamphlet lampooning the obfuscatory language used by activists in the 1930s, she cautioned fellow workers to be careful while typing, or the desirable "United Front" would become the quite different "Untied Front." The accompanying cartoon by Bay Area artist Pele DeLappe showed a pretty lady looking down, surprised at her unlaced shirt.
LaborFest's monthlong lineup honors Mitford by including some lighthearted events, so don't call it humorless -- Samantha Davidson Green's short film Couch Encounter, for example, is a comedy about a socialite's encounter with two dayworkers she hires for her "very special party." The "Smokin' Word" evening hosted by Daisy Anarchy also sounds anything but stuffy, and labor chestnut though it may be, 1954's copper-mining strike film Salt of the Earth is always good for a few yuks.
Other planned proceedings include Labor Maritime History walks, bike rides, and a boat tour; there's also UCSC Professor Dana Frank reading from 3 Strikes, the book she co-authored with Howard Zinn and Robin D.G. Kelley, and Fire on Pier 32, a new play about the struggles of longshore militants. And for a spot of revelry, check out It's Hard to Tell a Singer by the Song, a film about singer Hazel Dickens; the Bastille Day celebration; and the Red Riot Revue, with union songbirds Folk This!. You won't even have to work to have a good time.