Around Labor Day my brother and I laughingly recall our first experience organizing a group of youngsters. We urged them to stand up, or in this case sit down, for their rights. Fact is, it was about our rights too. And we needed their support.
In England during WWII, farm workers were serving their country. Youngsters between the ages of 10 and 13 were taken out of school during harvesting to pick the potatoes. Hard work. Long hours. Our pay - the princely sum of ten shillings a week; around one dollar.
Farmer Waring, our stingy boss, decided one week he would pay us with potatoes, instead of cash. This was not OK with my two brothers and me. Apart from lugging the spuds home on the bus, we needed cash.
The rest of the 30-kid crew rallied around. We called a strike. We sat, grim and dirty faced, at the end of our potato rows. Despite Farmer Waring roaring at us ‘Get off your arses!’ – (imagine that today) no one budged.
Result: A win-win. The kids got cash. Farmer Waring got his potatoes.
Arriving home, we shared our exciting day. We were asked ‘How did that make you feel?’ It made us feel good. Made us feel proud. Made us want to do more. And that, we were assured, is worth more than ten shillings.
The lessons: No matter your age, it takes courage to challenge an injustice. There is strength in numbers where there is a common goal. The proof: Study longtime friends and partners. If the cause seems right, they add their strength. They look for win-win solutions. They care what is right, not who is right.
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