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Labor Poster Exhibit At Lynnfield Library This Month

Area resident Stephen Lewis exhibits selections from his collection of 4,500 labor posters at Lynnfield Library in January.

Courtesy Stephen Lewis
Courtesy Stephen Lewis
Throughout January at the Lynnfield Library, a Boston area resident is exhibiting some of the labor posters he has collected from around the world over the years. 

In a recent conversation with Lynnfield Patch, Stephen Lewis said that he has about 4,500 labor posters in his collection, from various countries and some going back about 30 years. Some of the posters he picked up while attending conferences overseas. 

"When I started it wasn't with the idea of having a poster collection or exhibiting them," said Lewis. The theme of his poster exhibit is "The 99% Resist." It's inspired in part by the "Occupy" movements of 2012, but Lewis also noted that the labor issues highlighted in his posters go back decades. 

Lewis is a retired state government employee and former full-time elected union treasurer who exhibits his collection at local libraries and elsewhere. 

Along with sending the attached graphics to this website, Lewis also includes the following statement with his exhibit: 

"Organizations in many countries use posters as a way to communicate ideas and messages to their audience. Posters are sometimes used as billboards and are pasted on walls, fences, and poles over an entire city. Unions sometimes hang posters in work places to warn of dangers, educate about benefits or inspire actions. Posters sometimes use mainly the written word to communicate a message. Other times they rely on creative graphic art to communicate the idea. It is an art form that is easily accessible to many people. The art goes to the people rather than the people having to go to a museum. It is a communication tool that is less frequently used by unions in the United States.

While neo-liberalism and globalization have been around for a number of years, the last couple of years have seen an intensification of the attacks of the rich against the middle class (the poor already have nothing or next to nothing so there is little for the super-rich to take). This is an international attack that takes many forms. One way the rich and powerful mount their attack is by going after the organization of workers, which is the trade unions. As more politicians are elected thanks to the money of the 1%, governments at all levels and in many countries are going after the ability of working people to organize together to fight for better working conditions and wages. They pass right-to-work (for less) laws. They are eliminating defined benefit pensions and replacing them with defined contribution pensions, or with nothing. They are taking collective bargaining rights for public employees away at the state and city levels. Without workers having an organization to fight against these attacks, workers are at the mercy of their employer. 

We haven’t begun to call the attacks in this country, austerity measures, which it is called in other countries, but that is exactly what it is. Simply put, the rich and the big corporations are doing everything they can to pay less in taxes and less to workers in order to maximize their profits. They do this by hiding their profits, by outsourcing jobs to other countries, by demanding government subsidies to keep their company in a certain location, by enacting “free trade agreements”, etc. This means less money for governments to function in the form of tax revenues. With fewer people working or working for lower wages, the tax revenue is reduced even more.

It has been well publicized in the media about the IMF, and the European Union banks demanding a lowering of living standards in some of the Euro Zone countries. In order for countries to receive loans, they are told to reduce public pensions, to raise the retirement age, to privatize basic services and benefits to their citizens, to lower wages and more.

In this country, the US Supreme Court has held that corporations are people. This allows corporations to spend immense amounts of money to elect to political office, individuals who will make laws that aid these same corporations. Right-wing think tanks and politicians are working overtime to move more money to the 1%.

Working people have not been sitting idle while this has been going on. While there has been for many years a tug of war between the very rich and the rest of us, the struggle has begun to intensify over the past few years. Part of the reason for this is the increasing gap between the very rich (the 1%) and the rest of us (the 99%). In 2012, many people across the country took part in the Occupy Movement where they camped out on public spaces to help dramatize the ways the economy is not working for most people in this country. The posters of this exhibit highlight the attacks on working people, and depict some of the ways people are resisting.

The placards next to the posters give the main identification, the country where the poster was produced, the organization it was produced for, translations to English (where necessary), the name of the artist (where known) and the date created (where known).

The posters are from a collection of more than 4500 of Stephen Lewis. He is a long-time activist in the labor movement, and the former Treasurer of his union. Stephen has exhibited at a number of public libraries in Massachusetts and two of the state Heritage parks. He has presented at the annual conference of the National Council on Public History, and on some cable television programs. He can be reached by email at lewisposters@gmail.com or at Facebook under labor/progressive political posters. The posters/photos were contributed by friends, collected at conferences, visits to some of the organizations, and from connections made through the internet."

 

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