While many of you in the USA will be nursing PBS hangovers, we are celebrating Vappu, or Finnish May Day.
It is a national holiday, and the main focus is on spring. Everyone turns out to the parks to picnic, wearing their white graduation caps. Traditional foods include herring, sausages, homemade doughnuts and sima, a fruity homemade near-beer (it translates as mead, if that does something for you). As usual, there is also plenty of real alcohol flowing. It’s a jolly day to enjoy the approach of summer and kick back with your family.
But there is also the political aspect of May Day. The Communists march, the Socialists have big rally in the main square, and even the Center Party makes sure the workers know they’re loved and appreciated. It’s great fun.
I love this stuff. It reminds me of my grandfather, who was a 1930s Wisconsin Socialist and raised his family on the necessity and correctness of labor unions. In turn, my father made sure we kids knew about the glorious struggles of the working man and woman, and both of my parents, in addition to being very active in the church, were active in the teacher’s union. Feel free to gasp.
I always assumed that the Mormon aversion to labor unions was part of the general conservative position of most church members, which my parents generally took in stride. I was surprised to find that general conference talks were given in the 1930s and 40s against closed shops, and that in 1965 the First Presidency sent Mormon legislators a letter urging them to vote for a bill that would safeguard so-called ‘right to work’ laws. 
The doctrinal support for such a position is weak, to say the least. The rationale is that union security in contracts violates free agency. (I have not seen the original talk or letter, so free agency might be used as a labor term, not a doctrinal one.) I would suggest this is a limited and politically expedient use of the doctrine of agency. Employers impose all kinds of restrictions on their employees that limit their choices much more than a closed shop.
I look skeptically on a church leader speaking about labor issues: the church was, directly and indirectly, a major employer in Utah, so they have had an economic interest in minimizing the power of labor unions. On top of that, most church members and leaders in the USA are middle class and don’t face the issues which strong labor unions address, or they benefit from a lack of labor organization. While anti-union messages have dried up since the 1960s, it is an element of Mormon culture still going strong.
Mind you, there are valid economic and historical arguments against labor unions … that’s a different discussion. I just question the doctrinal argument.
Anyhow, something to think about on the International Workers’ Day. Enjoy.
 Davies, J. Kenneth. ‘The Right to Work Movement.’ Utah History Encyclopedia. Online resource. [http://www.media.utah.edu/UHE/r/RIGHTTOWORK.html] Accessed 1.5.2007.